One year ago, it was a false alarm. One year later, it's setting off alarms in Eugene.
Chip Kelly is headed to the NFL.
Now we enter that time-honored tradition of the pro football world breaking down the move as if the coach has graduated from elementary school to medical school, jumping from the stone age to the space age. Already they are talking as if he will leave the college game forever, never to lower himself so much as to return (more on that shortly).
But this time around, such analysis isn't standing on the rock-solid platform it once enjoyed. Why? Because the list of coaches who have made a successful move from campus to the shield has grown at a rapid rate over the past two seasons.
Not so long ago, the list of college coaches who transitioned to The League with some success was pretty much a two-man roster: USC-to-Tampa Bay's John McKay and Miami-to-Dallas' Jimmy Johnson. But rookie head coach Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers' Plan B when Kelly turned them down, has improved the team from 4-12 to 7-9 one year removed from Rutgers. And in only two years, Jim Harbaugh has rescued the San Francisco 49ers from a woefully generic decade and turned them into a Super Bowl contender.
However, that won't stop the pro football loyalists from at least attempting to rain on Kelly's parade into Philadelphia, no doubt bringing up the names of the biggest recent college-to-NFL flameouts.
So, what names are you most likely to hear brought up as warning signs to Kelly and the Eagles? Let's take a look at the five coaches to which Kelly is most likely to be compared, and see what their similarities tell us about Kelly's chances to succeed in the pros, and whether we'll ever see Kelly back as the head coach of a college football program.
Pete CarrollCollege record: 83-19
NFL record: 60-57
There are actually three chapters to this one, and each one improves his story. Carroll was a college guy who went to the pros, ended up inheriting two different NFL head jobs -- Jets and Patriots -- took over at USC, won like crazy, stirred up a storm of controversy and then returned to the NFL with Seattle. He's still there. After a pair of 7-9 seasons, he improved to 11-5 this year for his second playoff trip in three years. Two years ago, he upset defending Super Bowl champ New Orleans. This year he finished second in the NFC West.
Kelly similarity: After seven BCS bowl berths in nine years, including five Rose Bowls, Carroll's departure from USC for Seattle was widely seen as a man who was getting off campus before it was burned to the ground by the NCAA. As soon as word began to spread about a Kelly move to Tampa one year ago, similar murmurs started making the rounds as Oregon was under fire for its ties to alleged street agent Willie Lyles. Those allegations have never been anywhere near as serious as the ones levied at USC at the time of Carroll's resignation, but still, having to answer ceaseless questions about Lyles and having to continually talk about what the NCAA may or may not do to Oregon took a toll on Kelly. "College coaching should be fun," Carroll told me last year. "But there's a lot of that sucks the fun out of it."
To read Ryan McGee's full blog on Chip Kelly, how he will do in the pros and if he'll ever return to college, sign up for ESPN Insider.