Oregon coach Kelly finalizing deal to become Bucs head coach
Less than two weeks ago, Tony Dungy went on record saying he thought Oregon’s Chip Kelly would make a great NFL head coach. Although not rooting for that outcome, the former Bucs and Colts coach should know, since his son, Eric, plays receiver for the Ducks.
Maybe the Bucs were listening.
Using their trademark stealth approach, the Glazer family which owns the Bucs appeared to be on the verge of possibly landing the most innovative offensive mind in college football.
Kelly is finalizing a deal to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, the Tampa Bay Times confirmed Sunday night.
Kelly met with the Bucs earlier this past week and both sides are hopeful an agreement can be reached within the next 24-48 hours.
Kelly has been Oregon's head coach for three years, winning the conference title in all three, reaching three straight BCS games. Three weeks ago, the Ducks won their first Rose Bowl game in 95 years.
Kelly would make the jump to the NFL if a financial agreement can be reached, a source told KGW in Porland, Oregon Sunday night.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik has no plans to travel to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Monday in anticipation of an agreement with Kelly. As of Sunday night, there were many details to work out before a deal is finalized, the Times confirmed.
The secret meeting between with Kelly, Dominik and members of the Glazer family which owns the team came during an exhaustive search in which they interviewed eight known candidates with a wide array of experience in the NFL, from former head coaches to offensive coordinators and position coaches.
Kelly, 48, is the first known candidate that the Bucs have interviewed from the college ranks. Known as an offensive innovator, the Bucs are hopeful he could bring some of his up tempo schemes to the NFL.
Dungy said recently he believed Kelly would make an excellent NFL head coach.
"I'll tell you one guy I think would be great if it ever comes to that and that's Chip Kelly,’’ Dungy told Pro Football Talk. “I've watched him practice at the University of Oregon. Chip knows how to motivate people. He thinks outside the box. People say, "Well, he's got a gimmick offense. He wouldn't do that in the NFL. He wouldn't necessarily run a spread and do what Denver is doing. He does know how to attack defenses, he knows how to motivate people.
“I think playing at a fast pace, offensively and defensively, using a lot of people, keeping a lot of people, keeping everybody involved in the game – those are the things players like and I think it would translate over to the NFL. I'm hoping he doesn't go, because my son has three more years there. But if you watch them practice and see how they play, he's a phenomenal coach.’’
After firing coach Raheem Morris Jan. 3 following 10-straight losses that resulted in a 4-12 record, a priority for the Bucs was to identify coaches who could help quarterback Josh Freeman get back on track.
Freeman threw 22 interceptions and only 16 touchdowns last season, one year after leading the Bucs to a 10-6 record with 25 TDs and only six INTs.
Kelly joined the Ducks as offensive coordinator in 2007 and his spread attack was an immediate success at Oregon. In his first season, the Ducks lead the Pac-10 in scoring with 38.15 points per game and total offense with 467.54 yards per game while setting school records for both categories. In 2008, the Ducks topped that mark with 41.9 point per game and 484.8 yards.
In 2009, when Ducks coach Mike Belloti was promoted to athletic director, Kelly was named Oregon's head coach. A year later, Kelly led the Ducks to a 12-0 record and No. 2 ranking, earning a right to play Auburn in the BCS national championship game. The Ducks lost 22-19 on a last second field goal.
“In the national championship game, (in 2010), they lost to Auburn on the last play of the game,’’ Dungy said. “Auburn had 10 guys drafted, including two guys in the top seven. Oregon had one guy in the fourth round of the draft last year and they were able to play toe-to-toe with Auburn. I think that's what coach Kelly does.''
While Sunday's news of the Bucs' effort to finalize an agreement came as a surprise, it's typical of the stealth negotiations and big-name coaches the Glazers attempt to hire.
In 1996, they offered the Bucs head coaching job to Jimmie Johnson and Steve Spurrier before hiring Dungy.
In 2001, they had secretly reached an agreement with Bill Parcells two weeks before Dungy had a chance to coach the Bucs in a wildcard playoff game Tampa Bay lost to Philadelphia.
When Parcells later balked at the deal, the Glazers embarked on a 36-day search that resulted in the Bucs trading two first-round and two second-round picks and $8 million to the Oakland Raiders for coach Jon Gruden.
After firing Morris, co-chairman Joel Glazer promised a "thorough and wide" search and began by interviewing former NFL head coaches, a list that included former Packers and Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, former Vikings coach Brad Childress and former Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips cancelled an interview with Tampa Bay prior to an AFC Divisional playoff game against Baltimore.
The Bucs also interviewed Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, quarterbacks coach Jerry Clements and Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Jeff Chudzinski.
If an agreement could be reached, Kelly would become the first head coach hired from the college ranks by the Bucs since Ray Perkins left Alabama in 1987.