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UCLA and Chip Kelly at a crossroads moment

Kelly has three coordinator spots to fill, one year remaining on his contract, and a buyout that expires this weekend.

UCLA has a new coordinator opening. Actually, the more accurate phrase here is this: UCLA has a new new coordinator opening.

Last month, special teams coordinator/tight ends coach Derek Sage left for the Nevada offensive coordinator job. Earlier this week, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Justin Frye left for the Ohio State O-line job. 

And on Wednesday, Jerry Azzinaro left, period.

Losing three coordinators -- plus outside linebackers coach Jason Kaufusi, now at Arizona -- is not unprecedented, but UCLA's current predicament is.

As we've written about before, but we are reminding you now, Kelly's buyout expires on Jan. 15. 

On Sunday, UCLA can fire Kelly without penalty, and Kelly can walk away without penalty.

UCLA and Kelly have three options.

Scenario 1: UCLA is simply biding its time until Sunday to fire Kelly. That would've been justifiable following his first three seasons, which saw the Bruins go 10-21 and 10-15 in Pac-12 play. It would be less justifiable now, following Kelly's best season, an 8-4 campaign. 

Scenario 2: Kelly is waiting until Sunday to leave. 

If Scenario 1 or 2 are the true answers, the two sides' lack of action is confounding. Time is of the essence in the coaching market, and so if UCLA or Kelly wished to move on, it would be in their own best interest to notify the other party, negotiate the $9 million buyout to manageable figure, and move on. 

Scenario 3: UCLA plans to run it back.

This makes sense on the field -- UCLA did go 8-4 last year, after all -- but makes none off of it.

Kelly's original 5-year deal expires in 2022. If UCLA wishes to employ Kelly for next season and beyond, he needs to be able to attract quality coordinators in order to be successful. In order to attract quality coordinators, those coaches need some sort of assurance they're not leaving their jobs and moving their families to Los Angeles only to be back on the job market 11 months from now. 

And in order to do that, UCLA would need to extend Kelly's contract beyond the 2022 campaign.

To be clear, sources tell FootballScoop there is a contract extension on Kelly's desk, but the devil is in the details here. Is it a contract that matches Kelly's perceived market value? Is it a deal that makes it easy for UCLA to fire Kelly but hard for Kelly to leave? Is it an offer that allows UCLA to save face while gently pushing him out the door?

Considering the Azzinaro news today, I think it means Kelly will be back. Azzinaro has been by Kelly's side since the Oregon days. If Chip is truly minutes to midnight on his UCLA tenure, why not ride it out with his longtime lieutenant to the very end? Why make this move now?

It makes no sense to change defensive coordinators on Wednesday if you're also changing head coaches on Sunday. 

I think Chip will be back, but that's just my opinion.

UCLA and Chip Kelly will tell us their collective future soon enough. 

In the meantime, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.


Update: Kelly is expected to sign a new contract this weekend, according to Bruin Report Online