"That offense is tailor-made for Terrelle," said Ray Reitz, who coached Pryor at Jeannette High School in Western Pennsylvania. "He can run. He can throw. He's big and strong. He's the total package. I think he'd flourish in that offense."
Thanks to injuries and incompetence, Kelly hasn't been getting what he wants or needs out of Vick, Foles, and Barkley over his first eight games as the Eagles' head coach. So it may sting him to look across the O.co Coliseum field Sunday and see a player who appears to have been genetically engineered to run his system, especially since he missed an opportunity to coach Pryor years ago.
Pryor was a sight to see at Jeannette, a two-sport star and the top football recruit in the country, a target of Joe Paterno and Penn State who instead ended up choosing Ohio State. To maximize the amount of time Pryor had the football in his hands, Reitz installed a shotgun-based offense, similar to the one Kelly was using at the time as the University of Oregon's offensive coordinator.
Five times, Kelly flew cross-country on recruiting visits to watch Pryor play basketball and try to coax him to the West Coast. Pryor said Wednesday that the prospect of playing in Oregon's offense excited him and that he enjoyed Kelly's positive demeanor and passion for football. But Kelly could not persuade him to go to school so far from home.
"Chip was one of my favorites," Pryor said in a conference call. "I probably would have been with him if he was a little closer. It's pretty out there, Oregon was, and it wasn't a good distance for my family. That wasn't a good deal for me."
Kelly had charmed Pryor's coach, too. "Chip's a regular guy," Reitz, who now is the head coach at Latrobe (Pa.) High School, said in a phone interview. "He [doesn't] put on any airs."
But Reitz had never coached or coached against a player of Pryor's caliber, and he didn't appreciate how demanding and time-consuming life can be for the nation's No. 1 recruit, how much pressure was on Pryor to make a college choice that would satisfy not only himself but so many other people.
"The kid doesn't have time to breathe," Reitz said. "He never got a chance to visit [Oregon]. If you go out to Eugene, you may not ever come back. Their training facility looks like the Taj Mahal. There's, like, waterfalls. It's state-of-the-art. You've got Phil Knight's money, it makes things easy."
Instead, Pryor went to Columbus, Ohio, and he capped Kelly's first season as Oregon's head coach by beating him and the Ducks, 26-17, in the 2010 Rose Bowl, throwing for 266 yards and two touchdowns, carrying the ball 20 times for 72 more yards. Pryor didn't remember much from that game, but his performance remains fresh in Kelly's memory.
"There are two guys that I've had an opportunity to coach against - Cam Newton and Terrelle Pryor - that when you look at them, they kind of look like an NBA power forward," he said, "but they can run."
Kelly needs that kind of quarterback, both to grow in this offense and to allow the offense to grow. And if this season has done nothing else, it has proved that the Eagles don't have that quarterback on their roster. Until they do, Chip Kelly can only watch Terrelle Pryor on Sunday and wonder what might yet be.