SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – One of the first questions Oregon coach Chip Kelly was asked after arriving in Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl was about the possibility of coaching in the NFL.
The are-you-going-to-the- NFL questions haven’t let up in the five days since and only figure to pick up after seven coaches were fired Monday.
Deflection has been Kelly’s defense since the rumors started and it was no different after all those NFL openings cropped up.
“I’ve got a game to play,” Kelly said during the Fiesta Bowl’s media day on Monday. “We’re playing in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s the biggest thing in my life. If I allowed other things to get into my life, then they would be distractions, but there aren’t. Our focus 100 percent is on the Fiesta Bowl.”
Kelly has been an intriguing candidate for NFL teams for a few years.
The 49-year-old coach is known as an offensive innovator and his fast-paced, high-scoring offense has led to the most successful stretch in Oregon’s history.
The fifth-ranked Ducks have gone to four straight BCS bowl games, a run that includes a trip to the 2011 national championship game, Oregon’s first Rose Bowl win in 95 years last season and Thursday night’s Fiesta Bowl against No. 5 Kansas State at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The speculation over the past few years has been that Kelly has his eye on an NFL job and he even talked to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year before saying he had unfinished business in Eugene.
The rumors began to pick up this season and followed him to the desert, where he’s been asked about the NFL every day he’s been there and has given a different version of the same answer every time.
“My heart is to win today and that’s it,” Kelly said. “I know everybody wants to hear a different answer. And I know that at times when I don’t give you guys the answer that you guys want, then I’m being evasive. I’m not being evasive.”
One reason that Kelly’s stock is so high is that NFL teams are starting to embrace the hurry-all-the-time offense he has nearly perfected in Eugene.
NFL teams have always seemed to be reluctant to borrow from the college ranks, sticking to smash-mouth football for years even while college offenses had unprecedented success with the spread.
The mindset has changed, at least some, over the past few years as teams have looked for ways to get ahead of the defenses.