The Ducks’ 35-17 victory over the Wildcats at the Fiesta Bowl last Thursday was merely a cherry on top of the team’s overall success under Chip Kelly for the past four years.
With De’Anthony Thomas’ 94-yard carry at the opening kick-off and a two-point conversion attempt, the Ducks had an eight point lead 12 seconds into the game. De’Anthony Thomas received Mariota’s screen pass and made another touchdown, leaving the Ducks with a 15-point lead in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Kansas State had some success moving the ball and narrowed the Ducks’ lead to five points. A critical series of events occurred before halftime and Kansas State picked up momentum. The Wildcats’ stalled, however, and the Ducks took over after a missed field goal. With their hurry-up offense the Ducks were able to drive 75 yards in less than a minute, ending the half 22-10. In the second half Kansas State obtained possession and went three-and-out. The Ducks were able to keep control of the tempo for the rest of the game.
Coach Kelly’s last big victory was at the Rose Bowl in 2012 when the Ducks beat the Wisconsin Badgers 45-38 in Pasadena, California on January 2. Following the big game, Kelly was rumored to have backed out of a coaching deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the last minute.
Speculation about Kelly’s departure emerged again last Monday after seven NFL coaches were fired due to their unsuccessful attempts to bring their teams to the playoffs. Kelly continuously refused to confirm or deny any claims concerning his interest in the NFL job openings, repeating his mantra of focusing on the day at hand.
Considered an offensive genius, Kelly is a qualified and desired candidate for NFL coaching jobs and he knows it; Kelly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Buffalo Bills, and the Cleveland Browns in the days following the Fiesta Bowl. His seven-hour interview with the Browns Friday had fans convinced that was the team he would sign with. USA Today reported, however, that Kelly met with the Eagles for more than nine hours on Saturday.
ESPN insider Adam Schefter reported Sunday night that Kelly had decided to remain at Oregon. Ducks fans, whose chants for “four more years” filled the University of Phoenix Stadium last Thursday, got their wish.
Although many are relieved that Kelly will return to Oregon, the question still lingers: would the Ducks be able to succeed to the same extent as they have in the past four years without Kelly? The popular vote at the moment is yes; the Ducks are capable of thriving with or without their current coach.
The Ducks are dependent, not upon one man, but on a stable system and all of its collective parts. The Ducks have retained much of their staff for many years with very little turnover. The assistant coaches and the rest of the staff, therefore, are extremely familiar with the processes and continuity that have led the Ducks to on field success thus far. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich may be next in line when Kelly leaves, in which case, any major changes in the Ducks’ offensive plays would be unlikely.
Although Kelly is dear to the hearts of many fans, it is safe to conclude that when he leaves, the Ducks will continue to win.