Chip Kelly’s tenure as an analyst at ESPN might end up being shorter than his stint as San Francisco 49ers coach.
Kelly, the former Eagles coach who makes a living these days talking about football on ESPN, was surprised to be greeted with a Florida Gators graphic on the set of SportsCenter on Sunday morning.
“Is this your way of firing me?” Kelly jokingly asked SportsCenter host and Temple alum Kevin Negandhi before downplaying any interested he had in the Florida coaching job.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing right now,” Kelly said. “I think Florida is an outstanding program and has so much success.… Whoever gets that job will be really lucky.”
Chip Kelly's response when asked about the Florida job on SportsCenter pic.twitter.com/c0ol9ndQSq
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) November 19, 2017
But sometime after Kelly’s spot on SportCenter, the former head coach did indeed meet with athletic director Scott Stricklin and five key staffers in New Hampshire, according to both the Associated Press’ Mark Long and Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman. Neither Florida nor Stricklin would confirm they met with Kelly and were considering him for the spot vacated by the firing of Jim McElwain, who was canned a day after the school’s embarrassing 42-7 loss to Georgia. ESPN also did not respond to a request for comment.
“We continue to have very productive conversations related to our football team,” Stricklin told reporters at the airport late Sunday. “We’ve got a process we’re going through. There will probably be some more productive conversations in the days ahead. Lot of interest in the job.”
According to Feldman, Kelly is also believed to be UCLA’s top target to replace Jim Mora, whom the Bruins fired Sunday after the team’s third straight loss to rival Southern California. CBS Sports reports Kelly is scheduled to meet with UCLA sometime today.
Kelly was signed to a multiyear deal by ESPN back in May after being fired by the 49ers after just one season, in which he led the team to an abysmal 2-14 record. Before that, he coached the Eagles for the better part of three seasons before ultimately being fired late in the 2015 season. He went 26-21 with the Eagles, including one playoff appearance.
“I spoke with a lot of people this off-season about different situations for me — in coaching and TV,” Kelly said at the time he was hired by ESPN. “I had various opportunities in both. In the end, I have had a relationship with ESPN for many years from when I was coaching, and after speaking with them, I decided it was the best step for me to take.”
Obviously, Kelly has a much better track record in college. During his four years at Oregon, Kelly’s Ducks went 46-7 in four years, went to a big bowl game each season, and averaged 44.7 points a game. But he also made it clear he wasn’t a fan of the time he was forced to devote to recruiting, something he didn’t have to worry about in the NFL.
“Maybe a misconception is when you’re a college coach and the last game is done and then the bowl game comes, you don’t have a month off,” Kelly said during his stint coaching the Eagles. “I would argue my schedule was more hectic from a recruiting standpoint than it was here.”
Of course, Kelly could also be aware of headlines circulating around about cutbacks coming to ESPN. According to Mike McCarthy at the Sporting News, ESPN is looking to cut $80 million in salaries between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a culling that could target upwards of 100 staffers. Any new reduction in the workforce would come on the heels of layoffs in April that claimed the jobs of nearly 100 employees, many of whom were big names, such as Ed Werder, John Clayton, and Jayson Stark.
It’s expected that any more job losses would cut heavily into the network’s embattled SportsCenter brand, on which Kelly often appears as a college and NFL analyst. SportsCenter anchors Jaymee Sire, Jade McCarthy, and Jay Crawford lost their jobs during the first round of layoffs, and Lindsay Czarniak walked away in August when her contract expired after failing to agree on a role with ESPN.