If Chip Kelly doesn’t want to coach the Florida Gators, it’s better to find it out now.
That’s the only conclusion to draw from Friday’s Yahoo Sports report that the Gators have moved on from their top coaching candidate.
No matter the reason, if it’s Kelly telling Florida no or Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin tiring of the mind games, this would have been another one of those bad fits that have combined to set the program back a couple of times now.
Of course, there is a part of me that wants to wait for official announcements from Florida or from UCLA, to see if Kelly will change his mind.
[Saturday update: Chip Kelly agrees to a five-year deal to become UCLA’s football coach]
That’s what happened in 2012 when he was all set to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coach but decided at the last minute to stay at Oregon.
The following year he told the Philadelphia Eagles no, thanks, but he would be staying at Oregon. Then he changed his mind and went to the NFL anyway.
The guy burns bright, like a firefly, and isn’t always sure at any given moment what he truly wants for himself.
Bottom line, though, Kelly could have taken the Gators job last Sunday when Florida’s top brass came to see him in New Hampshire. He is not coaching anybody and has no reason to delay if this opportunity to run one of the college game’s most coveted programs was a top priority.
Because he didn’t, it shows that the thought of coaching in the SEC, of struggling to overcome Nick Saban and all the others, held no instant appeal.
Because he didn’t, it shows that Kelly has no appetite for operating in an environment where his ego and his powers might be checked by Stricklin, or his failures magnified by a hypercritical SEC fan base.
Because he didn’t, it proved that there are other candidates out there who are far more motivated to take on this task, men who wouldn’t arrive in Gainesville with an exit strategy already building in the back of their minds.
It’s a major disappointment for Florida to miss out on the rebirth that Kelly could have brought to the Gators’ offense. This major swing and a miss looks bad for the program, too, just as it looked bad when Jeremy Foley went shopping for Bob Stoops and Mike Shanahan but wound up hiring Ron Zook when those two didn’t jump at the offer.
This job search won’t have a good ending, however, if there is conflict at the beginning.
Stricklin and Kelly either haven’t connected or haven’t yet, even though there has been ample time to do so. There’s no forcing it now. Just as importantly for the Gators, there should be no looking back.
The only way Kelly can truly destroy the Gators is by taking a job in the SEC. That’s why the best news now might be his quick introduction at UCLA, far, far away.