By Eric Schmidt

As the NFL season winds down, rumors surrounding possible coaching candidates that will be fired at the end of the season heat up. There will be vacancies at the end of the 2012 season without a doubt, but the discussion quickly turns to which coaches are likely to fill those NFL vacancies. One of the hottest coaching commodities in those discussion this season is Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. Will Chip Kelly coach in the NFL in 2013?

Kelly has created an offensive juggernaut with the Oregon Ducks. His teams score with the utmost efficiency, while detractors state that the Oregon Ducks don’t face stiff competition and his system wouldn’t work in a conference as competitive as the SEC.Critics claim that Kelly’s style of play will not succeed in the NFL. I disagree.

During the offseason, prior to the 2012 NFL season, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels met with Kelly in order to learn some of the finer points of his offensive scheme. The result? A Patriots team which has struggled to run the ball in previous years now is ranked 7th overall in the league.

McDaniels obviously had to adapt portions of Kelly’s offense, because a true Oregon offense is predicated on a mobile quarterback. Tom Brady doesn’t have Cam Newton-like wheels.

An invitation to join the coaching ranks of the NFL is the ultimate tribute for college coaches. Pete Carroll got a second chance in the league. Greg Schiano is having success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first season. However, not all college coaches make the transition easily. Just ask Steve Spurrier.

I believe Kelly can make the transition. The NFL is starting to adopt more wrinkles of the spread offense. More mobile quarterbacks are entering the NFL. Kelly is going to have to have the right pieces in place in order to have success at the next level. I don’t see those pieces in place heading into the 2013 season.

Despite all the rumors, I think there are only five teams that are going to be replacing head coaches in 2013 with a couple outliers. Arizona, San Diego, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Cleveland will likely look towards a change. The outliers might be the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers.

Which of these teams really have the structure in place to run a Chip Kelly offense next season? Arizona? A trainwreck. Kansas City has some speed in the backfield but is without a quarterback. San Diego has Philip Rivers at quarterback and he doesn’t move in the pocket. A 30-year old second-year quarterback in Brandon Weeden in Cleveland? Is Nick Foles a Chip Kelly quarterback in Philadelphia?The Dallas Cowboys is one of the highest profile coaching jobs in the NFL but the talent is not in place to run Kelly’s offense.

Two teams remain as outliers with interesting possibilities, Buffalo and Carolina. Rumors have linked Michael Vick to Buffalo and the Bills will enter the season with Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller in the backfield. The Bills ponied up a huge amount of money last season on an underachieving defensive line and entered this season with high expectations.

How about the Carolina Panthers? The Panthers have one of the deepest backfields in the league with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert as well as a beast of a quarterback under center with Cam Newton. Kelly nearly took the job last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because of the mobility of Josh Freeman. Newton is far more mobile than Freeman.

I don’t know how quickly the Panthers front office will be to pull the plug on Ron Rivera, but the team really has underachieved this season, managing just four wins to date. Rivera joined Carolina during the lockout season of 2011 and had no offseason time to work with his team. He had a complete offseason this year to work with his players and the Panthers have regressed. If ownership wants to make a move, in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive NFC South division, adding Chip Kelly as the head coach would be a wise move.

 

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