We’ve not heard much about the Oregon head coach job since they fired Mark Helfrich. Why is there so much recent radio silence from the University of Oregon?
P.J. Fleck was the odds-on favorite to get the Oregon football head coaching job with 33% implied probability earlier this week.
Yesterday, however, Oregonian reporter John Canzano reported that the “door closed” once Fleck did not get a formal interview from the Ducks.
It feels irresponsible to assume that the hottest young coach yet to move on to a new college job is already out of the running at Oregon just because he has not received an interview.
Maybe the Ducks have seen his résumé and know that WMU was 1-11 in his first season as head coach and are now 13-0.
Perhaps they have seen his highlights or read his story with The Player’s Tribune and understand his mentality as a leader. They can still be interested without a formal interview. Or maybe they’ve moved on after failed contract negotiations.
Still, there is another reason the coaching search may be quiet — leaving room for speculation about various other options, from Willie Taggart to Greg Schiano.
Coaching searches can extend because of a lack of options or lack of unity within an athletic department. But they can also extend to give time to hire the target, who may not be publicly ready to move right away.
And when it comes to Oregon, there is one home run hire, still lurking, who may not be ready today: Chip Kelly, who coached Oregon to a national championship game appearance just a few years ago.
The San Francisco 49ers coach has repeatedly said he has not talked to anyone about a return to college and plans to stay with the team. That’s what the team and reporters have to say.
The San Francisco 49ers are one of the worst teams in the NFL and will likely fire their general manager Trent Baalke. The new GM would likely want his own system in place, which could leave Kelly without a job or in a tenuous position entering 2017.
If he ever wants to return to Oregon, now is the moment. Each successive loss (currently 11 in a row) and each inept offensive performance shuffling between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert makes a move more appealing.
Plus, Kelly has an ego to bolster and a lot to prove after two failed NFL stints. He likely does not want to be known as a system coach.
Mark Helfrich has already reached out to Kelly to ask if he would return to the program to help keep the coaches around.
Yet the latest odds have Chip Kelly at +2200 to become the next Oregon football coach. So it’s not likely. But is it impossible?
The UO contingent that is searching for the next coach has taken time out to join Chip Kelly for the funeral of his father, who died last week. It’s supportive of Kelly as a member of the family, and not a cynical move.
But it also shows the depth of the relationship between Kelly and the school.
After the report that Fleck is out of the running, having not been interviewed, the odds shifted.
South Florida head coach Willie Taggart, Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin and Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano are the new favorites. Even Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is reportedly in play.
Meanwhile, Fleck does not having many other options besides to stay at Western Michigan, even though his value is higher now than ever before. Does the Cincinnati job have that much appeal?
There’s no need to rush for either him or Kelly as you give Kelly time to make a decision.
I’d expect Oregon to wait for Kelly to grieve before he and the Ducks make a decision about their potential future together. The more time passes without an official hire of someone else, the chances that Kelly is still in play increase.
Some worry that the waiting game is unhealthy for the program considering the upcoming December 12th recruiting window.
Recall that Michigan announced its hire of Jim Harbaugh on December 30th in 2014. This season, the Wolverines were just one play away from a spot in the College Football Playoff.
So maybe it’s best to let Oregon’s athletic department do its job on this one, find the right fit for the program, and take as much time as necessary to get the best man available, whether that is Chip Kelly or P.J. Fleck.