I’m not sure this was the “wow’’ factor a lot of Tampa Bay fans were hoping for, but I think there are some “wows’’ going through the region Sunday night.
Multiple reports say the Buccaneers are in the process of finalizing a deal with University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly to become their next coach.
After nearly three weeks of repeated reports about the Bucs talking to former NFL head coaches and current coordinators, this one comes out of the blue -- sort of. The Bucs are noted for operating with stealth. Not too many people saw it coming when the team made a trade with Oakland to get coach Jon Gruden in 2002.
Although Kelly apparently interviewed with the Bucs last week, it was not reported. Maybe that’s why the Bucs didn’t appear to be in a big hurry to make a hire, even as other NFL teams were making moves for some of the guys they’ve interviewed.
There’s no doubt hiring Kelly would represent outside-the-box thinking on the part of the Buccaneers. But that move does make some sense.
Kelly has had huge success at Oregon, where he’s coached the past three seasons. He’s won three straight conference championships and appeared in three BCS games. His highlight came this past season when the Ducks won the Rose Bowl for the first time in 95 years.
Although Kelly doesn’t come with a rich NFL history, he does fit Tampa Bay’s profile in other ways. At 48, he’s much more mature than Raheem Morris, the former Bucs coach. Kelly also has a reputation as a disciplinarian, another departure from Morris' profile. He’s suspended two key players in recent years. He was also Oregon’s coach when running back LeGarrette Blount, now with the Bucs, was involved in an infamous postgame fight.
Again, the Glazer family, who own the team, often operate very quietly. But there’s at least the possibility Kelly may be coming to them with a very weighty recommendation.
Former Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy recently said he thought Kelly would make a very good NFL coach. Dungy’s son, Eric, is a wide receiver at Oregon. Although Dungy has made it clear he does not want to return to coaching, the Glazers might have consulted with him about potential candidates that would bring stability similar to what the Bucs had in Dungy’s time with the team.
Assuming this deal gets done, I'm sure Kelly would be an upgrade over Morris. Is he a better coach than the eight other candidates known to have interviewed with the Buccaneers? Time will tell on that. None of those guys really excited me. But Kelly, with the possibilities he brings, at least intrigues me. That alone could make him a good fit for this job.