The answer to Alabama's offensive coordinator problem: Chip Kelly

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Pat Forde
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Nick Saban already has squashed the Southeastern Conference like a semi running over a squirrel. He’s beaten everyone else not named Clemson to a pulp, too.

But if the Dark Lord of college football really wants to demoralize the sport, there’s one thing to do right now:

Hire Chip Kelly as his next offensive coordinator.

Then sit back and watch white flags being raised in Baton Rouge, Gainesville, Athens, the Loveliest Little Village on the Plain and beyond.

Combining the most fertile offensive mind college football has seen in the past decade with the most fearsome defensive mind of the 21st century – and, oh yeah, the best talent in the country – would be unfair.

And it would be fascinating.

Is Chip Kelly the answer to Alabama's offensive coordinator vacancy? (Getty)
Is Chip Kelly the answer to Alabama’s offensive coordinator vacancy? (Getty)

Rather abruptly and unexpectedly, Alabama has a vacancy at that position. Steve Sarkisian left Tuesday, after just five weeks and one game on the job, for the same position with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL.

That means Saban must hire his sixth offensive coordinator in 11 years at Alabama. It’s been a high-pressure, high-turnover position: Major Applewhite lasted one year and then went to his alma mater, Texas, as a position coach; Jim McElwain did well and was rewarded with a head-coaching job at Colorado State; Doug Nussmeier was onboard for a national title and then left to join Brady Hoke’s sinking ship at Michigan; Lane Kiffin had three years of success sprinkled with the usual Kiffy drama; and Sark was rushed onto the job just in time to lose the national title to Clemson.

As you can see, not everybody has left that job for bigger and better.

The guy who wears that hat gets a lot of money and a lot of talent to work with, but also a lot of Saban to deal with. He’s a demanding boss. Saban can put up with some stuff in exchange for results (see: three years with arrested adolescent Kiffin) but the OC must put up with semi-regular ass-chewings on national TV and who knows how many behind closed doors.

Kelly could certainly handle it, and would certainly be granted wide latitude to be the CEO of the offense. There are other reasons why it’s conceivable, if perhaps not probable:

· Kelly is unemployed. He’s been fired twice in the past 13 months in the NFL and may need to feel the love. His best work and his true comfort zone is in college. He’s coached ball every fall from 1990-2016; does he really want to be away from the game for a year?

· Alabama has more money than God and believes nothing could be a better expenditure than to increase its hegemony in college football. Especially now that Clemson is actively assaulting the castle walls. Kiffin was the highest-paid offensive coordinator in the game last year at $1.4 million per year. If Kelly wants $2 million, give it to him.

· Saban and Kelly have a relationship, reportedly a good one. Kelly showed up in Tuscaloosa in early January 2016 after being fired by the Eagles, while the Crimson Tide was preparing for Clemson Classic I. That visit quickly garnered attention and sparked curiosity.

“Chip Kelly’s a good friend of myself and a lot of coaches on our staff,” Saban said at the time. “He just happened to be in the area and he stopped by and visited with us for a little bit. Not really anything of significance relative to this game.”

· Kelly and new Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne are friendly as well, and have been for several years dating to when they were both in the Pac-12 – Kelly at Oregon and Byrne at Arizona.

· If Kelly needed a one-year refresher course on shredding college defenses with the spread option, why not do it with Jalen Hurts, Bo Scarborough, Calvin Ridley and other studs at your disposal?

· A year in the SEC might also help familiarize Kelly with the operations of two programs that are on Alabama’s schedule every season and may be in the market to hire another head coach if 2017 doesn’t go well. Looking at you, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

Now, hiring Kelly and having him implement the same offense he ran at Oregon would also finalize the hypocrisy of Saban’s staunch stance that uptempo football is dangerous to players and should be legislated against.

Saban lobbied to slow down the game and reduce the number of plays, to the outrage of uptempo teams everywhere. When he didn’t beat ‘em, he semi-joined ‘em – Alabama became primarily a no-huddle team under Kiffin.

Still, the Tide didn’t play at the breakneck pace of vintage Kelly Oregon. Playing that way would require a complete walking back of the Saban safety concerns manifesto, circa 2012-14.

I suspect that’s a rhetorical tightrope walk Nick Saban would be willing to make if he had to. Hiring Chip Kelly would be worth it – for the fear and panic that would spread throughout the land within minutes of the announcement, and the touchdowns that would follow in the fall.

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