It wouldn’t be bowl season without wild speculation about which college coaches will be the next to jump to the NFL and try their hand at the next level. Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks is a popular name to throw around for vacant head coaching jobs in the NFL, but this year the talk seems to picking up a little extra steam. If Kelly bolts for the NFL, the Ducks would be wise to promote from within and hand the reigns over to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
Helfrich is a local product, growing up in Medford, Oregon, and nearly played for the Ducks coming out of high school as a walk-on. He decided to take a scholarship to Southern Oregon instead before joining the Oregon coaching staff as graduate assistant in 1997. He got his first real coaching job in 1998 when former Oregon OC Dirk Koetter hired him to be the quarterbacks coach for the Boise State Broncos.
He returned to Eugene in 2009 when Kelly was promoted from offensive coordinator to take over the head coaching duties from Mike Belotti. Since he has returned, Oregon has enjoyed unprecedented success for the program earning four straight BCS bowls, including this years Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and three conference titles. During that time, the Ducks have become one of the premier offensive powers in college football.
And who would be better equipped to keep the offensive machine rolling than someone who is already inside it? Helfrich doesn’t call the plays as that still falls to Kelly, but he has worked side by side with him since 2009 developing and refining the vaunted blur offense while calling down the defensive alignments to Kelly from the coach’s box. Nobody outside of Chip Kelly knows the ins and outs of this offense better than Helfrich.
There are those that feel like Oregon should hire a big name from outside the program, like Chris Petersen from Boise State. But bringing in an outsider would bring changes to the Ducks’ winning formula. A new coach would bring his own system and philosophy to Eugene which would create a need for a transitional grace period (a.k.a. losses). Oregon is among the most successful college football programs in the country over the last four years. Why fix what isn’t broken?
The last time the Ducks needed to make a coaching change, they chose to promote from within and the transition was seamless. Kelly took the guiding philosophy of the team under Belotti, which he had learned during his stint as the OC, and added his own twist to it. The result was new-found levels of success for the Oregon program. It’s a winning formula that they should turn to once again.
Kelly will eventually need to be replaced, and it’s looking like it will be sooner rather than later. When that day comes, they should look no further than their own coaching box for his replacement and promote Mark Helfrich to be the next head coach of the Oregon Ducks.