How did we get here? Seriously, how?
Chip Kelly was the hottest name from his 2007 arrival as Oregon’s offensive coordinator through 2014, his second season as the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach. Kelly went 66-19 in his first six seasons as a head coach with three conference championships and at least a share of five division titles.
And then it all flipped.
Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Kelly is 11-34: 6-9 with the Eagles, 2-14 in his one season leading the San Francisco 49ers and now 3-11 at UCLA.
Of course, UCLA didn’t care about Kelly’s NFL struggles when the Bruins hired him in December 2017. They want him to beat Stanford, not the Seahawks.
The Bruins thought they were getting the Oregon Chip Kelly, a parallel to South Carolina’s 2004 hiring of Steve Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach became the most successful head coach in Gamecock history, but the results, frankly, have been the opposite in Westwood.
UCLA has dropped six out of its last seven games — the one win coming against USC last season — including a less than exciting loss to Cincinnati to open this season and a 23-14 home defeat to a San Diego State team that open its own season with a 6-0 win over FCS Weber State. It probably won’t get much better from here, at least not immediately. No. 5 Oklahoma comes to the Rose Bowl on Saturday, and UCLA is literally giving tickets away.
After that, well, how many wins you do see on this schedule?
After finishing 80th in yards per play and 98th in scoring a year ago, UCLA is off to a worse start this season: 128th in yards per play (3.71) and 119th in scoring (14.0 points per game) through two outings.
Needless to say, this isn’t what you sign up for when you hire Chip Kelly, and it certainly was the last thing on UCLA’s mind when it wrote his contract.
Kelly inked a 5-year contract on Nov. 25, 2017 worth $20.3 million in compensation. Nearly half is guaranteed, as UCLA would owe Kelly $9 million, to be paid in monthly installments within a year of a hypothetical firing, should the school move on at any point before the end of Contract Year 4, which falls on Jan. 15, 2022.
It’s important to keep in mind the $9 million buyout is in addition to the salary Kelly already accrues, so he actually gets more expensive to fire the longer he remains employed. He made $3.3 million last year and $3.5 million in 2019. Should UCLA move on in December 2021, for instance, he’ll have made $15.7 million in salary plus a $9 million buyout.
Florida was competing with UCLA for Kelly’s services in the winter of 2017, so this coach-friendly deal was necessary to get him in blue and gold, not blue and orange. To get Chip Kelly, UCLA mortgaged its future over to him. Kelly will continue renovating the house after this season.