Rumor Mill: If Chip Kelly leaves Oregon, what are the Ducks’ options for a new head coach?

Oregon Ducks offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich at press conference. He may be the favorite to succeed Chip Kelly should the Ducks coach make the leap to the NFL. (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports)

The architect of one of the most consistently dominant offenses in the history of college football, Oregon’s Chip Kelly, seemingly has one foot out the door as his Ducks prepare for Thursday night’s Fiesta Bowl showdown with Kansas State.

Kelly was highly sought after last season, nearly accepting the open head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before deciding to stick around Eugene for another year. However, he has already scheduled an intervewi with the Cleveland Browns for the day after the college season ends. He is also rumored to be on the short list for the open Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers positions.

Most of the open head coaching jobs in college football have already been filled, meaning the pool of potentially qualified candidates for Oregon to consider has shrunk considerably.

That being said, the university’s athletic department may not have to go any further than their very own stadium offices to find the ideal candidate.

Not only does Adam Jude of the Oregonian believe Kelly’s exit is a mere inevitability, but that his offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich, could be the perfect coach to keep the Ducks’ train of success operating at full capacity.

He is not alone in either of these educated guesses. Fellow member of the Oregonian, John Canzano, agrees that Helfrich is perfectly suited to take over for Kelly.

“Nobody knows exactly how much of the Ducks play-calling Helfrich is doing during games,” Canzano wrote. “I’m not sure how he’d be with the boosters who matter most at UO. I don’t know, or care, if he’s media savvy. But what’s clear to me is that Helfrich gives Oregon its best chance to maintain the run it’s on right now, regardless of what the NCAA does. And I keep coming back to the fact that if Kelly weren’t viewed as so transient and NFL-bound that Helfrich would have been the leading candidate at Cal and Colorado and a host of other places last month.”

If Oregon is unlucky enough to lose the man who built its football program into a national powerhouse, then at least the Ducks may just prove to be lucky enough to find the perfect successor under their yellow, duck-billed noses.

If such a scenario were to unfold, it would then be Helfrich’s responsibility to continue to recruit the type of elite speedsters who continually chose to head up to Eugene to play for Kelly over USC and sunny Los Angeles.

The Gamedayr Stats Department breaks down the Fiesta Bowl matchup by the numbers.