Oregon's Chip Kelly the object of the NFL's, and the Eagles', attention

Bidding war? Oregon coach Chip Kelly is on the radar of several NFL teams looking for a head coach, including the Eagles and the Browns. RICK BOWMER / AP
Bidding war? Oregon coach Chip Kelly is on the radar of several NFL teams looking for a head coach, including the Eagles and the Browns. RICK BOWMER / AP
Posted: January 04, 2013

The eyes of NFL executives and fans without a head coach will be on Thursday's Fiesta Bowl, when Chip Kelly coaches Oregon against Kansas State.

Kelly is considered one of the leading candidates for the Eagles job, but stiff competition is expected from other teams with vacancies. The Cleveland Browns are also said to be interested in Kelly. Joe Banner, the former Eagles president and now the CEO of the Browns, is already in Arizona interviewing Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

The Fiesta Bowl is played at the University of Phoenix Stadium, which is the Cardinals' home field.

Kelly has already scheduled interviews with the Browns and Eagles, an NFL source told The Inquirer.

At Kelly's news conference on Wednesday, he continued to deflect questions about his interest in the NFL.

"I don't expect anything," Kelly told reporters when asked if he expects to field offers next week. "I said this a million times. I'm never surprised by anything. I do not know what the future holds. I do know we have a football game [Thursday] night, and I'm going to be there."

A misperception about Kelly, he said, is that he's scheme-specific, with a system that might not translate to the NFL. Kelly's attractiveness to NFL teams is based more on a philosophy of speedy play than his scheme, and he said Wednesday that he adapts to his personnel.

When Eagles fans watch the Fiesta Bowl, they should watch the quick pace of Oregon's offense. The Ducks rank No. 24 in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 989 plays, and they have the third-most plays of any team that has played only 12 games.

The New England Patriots have taken facets of the offense and applied them in the NFL - with Tom Brady as quarterback, mind you, and not a running threat - and led the league in total plays.

Kelly has spent the week avoiding any discussion of his future. He said his players are not distracted by the NFL chatter and that no player has asked him about the NFL gossip.

"I think one of the tenets of [what] we do in our program is we don't let outside influences control our lives," Kelly said. "It's kind of just noise to us. They've never said a word to me. I've never said a word to them. I always believe that praise and blame is all the same."

About the game. A year ago, the Fiesta Bowl hit it big with Oklahoma State and Stanford, two high-profile programs that didn't disappoint. They put on an offensive show won by the Cowboys, 41-38, in overtime. This year's game has the potential to be even better.

Oregon (11-1) is in its fourth straight BCS bowl game under Kelly, following a trip to the 2011 BCS championship game between two Rose Bowls, including the program's first win since 1917 in the "granddaddy of them all" last season.

The Ducks fly fast, overwhelming opponents with where-did-they-all-come-from speed - their touchdown drives are measured not in minutes but seconds. Oregon has one of the nation's most explosive running back tandems in Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, threats to score on every touch, and redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota played well beyond his years while proving to be a dynamic force in his own right.

The Ducks were second nationally with 50.8 points per game, third with 323.3 yards rushing per game, and fourth in total offense at 550.1.

Kansas State (11-1) is in its second resurrection under coach Bill Snyder. The studious coach orchestrated one of college football's greatest turnarounds during his first stint in the Little Apple, turning a program that had lost more games than any other into a national championship contender.

After a three-year retirement, Snyder again lifted the Wildcats out of the doldrums, leading them to a bowl game his second season, 10 wins a year ago, and all the way back to national prominence this season. Fitting the mold of their 73-year-old coach, the Wildcats are meticulously prepared and run Snyder's schemes to near perfection.

Kansas State doesn't play nearly as fast as the Ducks, but can put up points in a hurry. The Wildcats are 10th nationally with 40.7 points per game and are led by a Heisman Trophy finalist, do-everything senior quarterback Collin Klein. This is the Wildcats' 14th bowl appearance under Snyder, and with a win over Oregon, they can finish with the first 12-win season in school history.


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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