Steve Sarkisian is leaving Alabama to take the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator job. That leaves an opening for Crimson Tide offensive coordinator. Chip Kelly is unemployed. Naturally, his name is already being floated. It’s sexy. It’s interesting to speculate about, but it seems like an unnatural fit.
The first thing to point out is that Kelly does not need money. The 49ers fired Kelly with $18 million over three years left on his deal. The Eagles may still owe him some money as well. Any money he makes from his next job only cuts into what the 49ers would pay him. If he takes a job, it will be because he wants it.
Kelly does not need to rehabilitate himself. He’s not Lane Kiffin or Steve Sarkisian. Sure, he’s not getting a third NFL head coaching gig anytime soon, even if he had hard luck his first two times out. He would need a stupendous, Super Bowl-winning tenure as an offensive coordinator to wash his past jobs away.
What happened in the NFL won’t hurt Kelly’s college reputation. Nick Saban was a bad NFL coach. So was Steve Spurrier. Kelly runs a fun, up-tempo offense. He went 33-3 in the Pac 12 at Oregon and went to a national title game. He’s a proven commodity in college. The only questions about him getting a quite decent college head coaching job in 2017 are whether he wants one and where.
Jobs available next season could include Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Arizona State among others. Kelly would have the best résumé on the market. The only thing going to Alabama could do for his marketability is hurt it.
Perhaps most importantly, Kelly can be prickly. He has strong ideas about football. He wants control. He does not like recruiting. That’s not a great combination of traits for working under Nick Saban, who has his own well-established “process.” Chip saying he would “just go be an offensive coordinator somewhere” does not necessarily mean in college.
There’s also the question of whether Alabama would want a rent-a-coordinator for a year. Even if all other facets of the move worked out, would Alabama want to enter another college football playoff with a coordinator who has a foot out the door? If not better, there are younger, long-term, and more pliable options for a team with two talented young quarterbacks.
Maybe Kelly wants an active football job for the 2017 season that badly. He did make a fleeting visit to Alabama the last time he was unemployed. But, Kelly doesn’t seem like a guy itching to get back to college. He is in a position where he does not need to take a job with questions. Alabama offensive coordinator, a demotion, would be one that has many of them.