Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You were good, kid

So that's that. Oregon-related crisis not averted. Chip Kelly is gone, and with him goes a lot of the Oregon-ness of the great-googly-moogly version of Oregon. I mean, yeah, Mark Helfrich will take over (after a search that's only being conducted because it's required by state law) and presumably keep things as close to the same as possible, but if Mark Helfrich were Chip Kelly, he'd have been going 46-7 with four straight BCS appearances and an almost national title at some other national power instead of being a quarterbacks coach and nominal offensive coordinator.
. . . . . .

Almost exactly three years ago, I wrote something on the old version of my site about Urban Meyer's legacy after he retired (haha) in the most WUT way possible. The premise: The guy had a 95-18 record at three schools in three conferences, three unbeaten seasons, two national titles (the only coach in the BCS-era to have done that at the time) despite the spread being incapable of winning a national title according to Gary Danielson, a squeaky-clean record, etc.

About a week later, I wrote something similar about Pete Carroll (after he bailed for the Seahawks and their gajillions of dollars) except without the squeaky-clean part.

Chip Kelly isn't really either of those guys because he doesn't have the national titles. In terms of just winning, though, he's pretty close: 46-7 (a) is ridiculous and (b) yields an .868 winning percentage that's better than Urban Meyer's overall win percentage at this point (.856) and Carroll's win percentage at USC (.836). Actually, it's the second-highest winning percentage EVER among D-I coaches, with only Knute Rockne's .881 higher. Wow? Wow. And that's to say nothing of the four BCS games in five years, the total of two losses to teams that didn't win at least 10 games, the zero Pac-12 losses to teams other than USC and Stanford over the past four years and the general hilarity on offense. BTW, all of that stuff was accomplished with a program that had previously been to three meaningful bowl games in modern history and had won 10 games a total of three times before Kelly showed up out of nowhere (New Hampshire is basically nowhere) as O-coordinator in 2007, the year Oregon might have won it all and Dennis Dixon might have won a Heisman if not for the ACL gods striking him down at midseason.

Really, beyond the lack of a national title, there's only one thing about Kelly's record/resume/whatever that could be construed as anything other than totally awesome:

Oh yeah. That. Oregon's gonna go in front of the COI at some point soon, try to explain some utter nonsense (insert Manti Te'o reference here) that looks a lot like purchases of recruits and then get some mostly meaningless penalties along with maybe a bowl ban that might actually be of some significance; I mean, without a bowl game, Nike will only be able to design 12 ridiculous jerseys a year instead of 13, and that's just not gonna be sufficient in recruiting, let me tell ya.

So something is gonna happen, and that something will be not good but probably not at the devastating end of the scale that goes from "nothing" to "Penn State." Wherever it falls in between will be somewhat of a determinant in Kelly's legacy, and that's kind of an ambiguous way to leave things. Maybe he's leaving largely because of that; I guess that's possible, but it seems a lot more possible that he's leaving because he ultimately wants to know whether he's The Best or just really good. That's an insignificant difference to people who aren't running massive organizations and getting paid even-more-massive amounts of money, but Chip Kelly is one of those people; Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll are also among those people. Beyond that, non-Penn State-esque sanctions are eminently overcomeable; Ohio State is doing pretty OK right now, and USC would be doing just as OK if the defense still existed (or, more specifically, if Carroll and the gang were still together). Winning is still winning, and Oregon has been freakin' winning. But I don't know for sure; I'll never know for sure since this thing in question isn't really knowable for anybody who isn't Chip Kelly.

Whether he'll turn out to be any good in the NFL* isn't really knowable, either, nor is it relevant to this particular site unless he's so not good or so disenchanted that he becomes a much more smirky version of Nick Saban/Bobby Petrino by leaving the Eagles for a school that isn't Oregon (or maybe even a school that is Oregon) in three or four or five years. I don't think that's very likely, but that's just, like, my opinion, man, with some basis in the  Patriots using a lot of spread inside-zone stuff and quick screens and other Oregon-type stuff (the tempo, specifically) and the Niners/Seahawks/Redskins pretty effectively using various zone-read concepts.

Regardless, that matters not at all to Oregon and only slightly more to me (and entirely from a curiosity standpoint). What matters is whether Mark Helfrich can maintain the Oregon-ness that I referred to earlier, with the scoring-a-lot-of-points thing probably more manageable than the going-to-the-BCS-every-year thing. There will be a drop-off of some degree just because Helfrich isn't debatably the best offensive coach in all of football. I don't think that drop-off will be massive, though, even if Helfrich was a pretty blah O-coordinator at Colorado (he was a pretty widely respected quarterbacks coach at ASU and Boise State prior to that) before getting the Oregon gig. Firstly, it seems reasonable to assume that he's learned some useful stuff from Kelly and been involved somewhat extensively in both gameplanning and playcalling. Secondly, Oregon will still be Oregon. There will still be the crazy-ass jerseys and the "players' lounges" filled with 87-inch TVs and not-yet-released electronic products and various other things that basically serve as a way for Phil Knight to give the players cool stuff and circumvent the NCAA. Woo recruiting!

But Mark Helfrich's Oregon won't be Chip Kelly's Oregon, and that's kinda sad, because Chip Kelly's Oregon was awesome in an "lol touchdown wwwhheeeee" way that nobody else's program has ever been. It's sad for everybody except the rest of the Pac-12 and obviously the guy, whose life will feel so fulfilled until he realizes at some point in the near future that Chip Kelly was really freakin' good.

*Chip Kelly and Monte Kiffin ended up in the same division. Hahahahahahahahahaha.


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