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The Chip Kelly speculation has moved into a new gear

By Pat McManamon

If one is seeking fairness it’s probably best not to coach in the NFL.

Because job security is dependent on the last game, and speculation about said security only happens on days that end in ‘y.’

Pat Shurmur knew that when he signed up to be the Browns coach, but imagine being in his position — trying to win for the third time in four weeks when suddenly people are talking about who is going to do his job next season.

It is one justifiable reason coaches have tunnel vision. As Shurmur said when asked about the bye week following Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens: “I’m staying in the moment.”

Which is wise.

Because the speculation about Oregon coach Chip Kelly has gone from a murmur to a whisper to now officially “out there.”

This week, two stories were written that identified Kelly as a prime target of NFL teams this offseason, and Peter King said on NBC last Sunday that the Browns could look to Kelly.

NFL.com listed the offseason coaching candidates, and Kelly was at the top of the list. It quoted one NFC executive: “He runs the best practices I’ve ever seen. I would hire him in a second if I ever had the opportunity.” Kelly clearly was the most glamorous name on the list, which included some new assistants (Kyle Shanahan, Mike McCoy, Brad Seely) and some others whose names have been mentioned before (Perry Fewell, Bill O’Brien).

SI.com followed with a story on Kelly that said “he’s not just on the NFL’s radar; he’s suddenly the hottest name in the business.” Nobody knows what Jimmy Haslam is thinking, but there is consensus that a guy who just spent a billion plus on a team would want to make a splash with a coaching hire. Kelly would be a huge splash — at least in name and style. Then again, if Shurmur finishes strong, Haslam may find that continuity matters.

As for Kelly, part of a person asks why. Kelly, 48, has only been a head coach for four years. He was hired at Oregon after being New Hampshire’s offensive coordinator.

But the answer to the ‘why’ isn’t tough to find: Kelly’s offense could revolutionize the NFL. The thought of him transforming the staid approach of the pros has to tantalize a lot of teams. Already its influence has greatly helped the New England Patriots.

Bill Belichick spends time every offseason trying to learn the more innovative facets of college offenses. He spent some of the past offseason in Eugene learning Kelly’s system, which operates with lightning speed and efficiency. The Patriots now have Tom Brady make playcalls using a single word.

The other reason Kelly is a hot name is he reportedly agreed to become coach of Tampa Bay last offseason before changing his mind. That fuels thinking he can be “bought.”

Kelly is 42-6 at Oregon, and has won three Pac-12 titles in a row. The Ducks are ranked second and are 8-0 heading into Saturday’s game at USC. Their speed and quickness are eye-opening.

No NFL team runs the spread-option fulltime, but Tim Tebow had some success with it in Denver last season. In the past, the general thinking is that NFL defenses are too fast and sophisticated, that they would splay the spread.

But … Belichick has shown things can be adapted. And the speed with which the Ducks operate might leave pro teams wagging their tongues. The notion of making it work in the NFL has to be appealing to any college coach with an ego; Kelly qualifies (though it would be nice if someone would tell him he doesn’t need to wear that visor so low).

Kelly would be going into uncharted waters, and he would be leaving behind Nike and its leader Phil Knight, who has bestowed the Oregon program with enough money to build a luxury liner (well … maybe not THAT much).

Doesn’t matter. Kelly officialy has become this year’s Jim Harbaugh, the guy whose name will be associated with every NFL job that comes open — or does not come open.

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