Chip Kelly got his shot at head coaching from the decision makers at Oregon, and his loyalty almost made it too difficult to leave Eugene. Almost.
On Wednesday, Kelly shocked the sports world by announcing his departure from Oregon only days after committing to stay on campus despite his flirtation with the NFL. He had accepted the open head coaching vacancy with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, Kelly is hoping his brand of loyalty rubs off on a couple of elite defensive minds in the SEC. Florida’s defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, jumped to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday, and now Kelly is dipping into the conference to try to snag himself a D-coordinator as well.
Rumors had begun circulating immediately that the new Eagles coach was pursuing Todd Grantham, the current defensive coordinator at Georgia. However, a new name has perked up in the rumor mill.
After collecting 13 interceptions as a defensive back at Georgia, Kirby Smart jumped into coaching immediately upon graduation, in 1999. His first year under current Alabama head coach Nick Saban was as his defensive backs coach in 2004 at LSU. He spent a little time back with Georgia until he rejoined Saban with the Miami Dolphins in 2006. Smart then followed Saban back to the collegiate ranks, when both headed to Tuscaloosa in 2007.
He was an assistant coach for a year, and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008. The Crimson Tide has won three national titles on the strength of Smart’s defense, and thus the assistant’s name has come up frequently when positions have opened up around the country over the last few years.
Kelly earned his contract and his brand-spanking-new NFL head coaching position on the strength of an innovative and utterly dominant offensive juggernaut he managed to build while at Oregon. However, his defenses have lagged behind. Bringing in a young, energetic defensive mind with the resume of Smart would be a huge boost to Kelly’s chances of success at the professional level.