UCLA Analysis: Another look at the Chip Kelly hire

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /


With Chip Kelly now running things in UCLA, things might look a little different.

When the UCLA Bruins football program introduce their new coach Chip Kelly before the media on Monday afternoon, there is to be a scheduled airplane carrying a banner welcoming the coach. This is a marked departure to just a few weeks ago when a plane flew over the Rose Bowl during a Bruins game advocating for both athletic director Dan Guerrero and then coach Jim Mora to be fired.

Today you wouldn’t be surprised to see Bruin alumni parading down to Westwood praising their new savior St. Chip. For a football program that hasn’t played in a Rose Bowl in 16 years and won one in over 30 years, it’s not far fetched to acknowledge that this is the Bruins biggest coaching hire in program history.

While Bruins football coaches have success they were usually internal hires like Dick Vermeil and Terry Donahue, outside hires that have ties to the program like Rick Neuheisel, or a plan C hiring like  Jim Mora.

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Chip Kelly is profound hiring, it will be the first time that the hottest coaching candidate has decided that UCLA is the best fit for them and their coaching career. If this works Kelly could dispel the tired notion that UCLA is “just a basketball school,” but if Kelly fails there may never be a coach who can bring success to the football Bruins.

While alumni may think Pac-12 titles and Rose Bowl wins sprinkled with College Footbal Playoff appearances will start next year, the Chip Kelly realistically doesn’t guarantee this. Currently the Bruins look like a good match with Kelly because they play to his strength on the offensive side of the ball.

Kelly revolutionized offensive football at Oregon with his read offense scheme, he depended on athletes to use their brains to read what the defense was giving them and react to it to make the plays. His schemes lead to a 46-7 tenure and place Oregon firmly in the national championship picture.

The Bruins current offensive schemes followed a similar type of offensive philosophy after a failed experiment with a “power football” based offense, they have the kind of athletes that theoretically fit Kelly’s scheme. But theories can be disproved, Kelly’s winning football was not just about fitting players it was also about a culture.

If players currently on the team or in the recruiting pipeline don’t fit Kelly’s culture even if they fit the scheme, something will have to give and Kelly may decide they aren’t right for the program. That can lead to a lot of turnover in the program making immediate success on the field less likely.

As good as a coach that Kelly has proven in the Pac-12 you could argue that lifting the Bruins to similar heights as his previous tenure will be difficult. At Oregon resources from Nike founder and Oregon alumnus Phil Knight fueled Oregon’s program. At UCLA there is no Phil Knight or Nike money.

While at Oregon Kelly didn’t have to look over his shoulder at rival program, sorry but Oregon State was (is) irrelevant compared to Oregon football. At UCLA Kelly will always be looking over his shoulder with football giants the USC Trojans just twenty minutes away. While most might argue that coach Clay Helton may not be the master strategist that Kelly is, he will always have the cache of the Trojans history and name to get better players to come to USC.

Chip Kelly’s pedigree should give him some time to build something at UCLA, alumni and fans may not be patient enough to wait out success.  They will have to though because Kelly is the best hire that UCLA could have ever ask for but expectations need to be tempered.

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Once Kelly gets going though, look out we may see some parades in Westwood after all.