Ever since the surprise firing of Chip Kelly took place early this week, there have been pundits around the NFL speculating where the controversial head coach will end up next. And when star pupil Marcus Mariota was asked, the former Oregon quarterback came to an "obvious" conclusion.
"We've had a connection through Oregon," Mariota said, as reported by ESPN, before downplaying the notion that he would encourage management to bring Kelly in to coach the team.
But the Titans number one pick in this past year's draft was effusive of his praise for Chip Kelly.
"I think he's proven [he can be a winner] the first two years. I think this past year was tough, he probably didn't have the season that he wanted. But to win 10 games his first two years says a lot about what he's able to do and says a lot about his coaching."
And while Mariota may not be publicly lobbying for Chip Kelly to Tennessee, there has been plenty of speculation around the league that it will happen. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport called the Kelly to Tennessee rumor a "potential fit," as reported by Penn Live, claiming that it "does make a lot of sense for the Titans to consider him."
And John Canano of Oregon Live thinks a Mariota-Kelly reunion is inevitable.
"I've felt all along that a Kelly-Mariota reunion was inevitable. Wasn't sure if Kelly would draft his former pupil, trade for him or pick him up in free agency. Never for a moment thought Kelly would light a match under himself and flame out. But that's exactly what happened. Mariota must be somewhere smiling."
There was a lot of pre-draft hype that Chip Kelly was trying to trade up from the number 20 pick in this past year's NFL draft to trade for Marcus Mariota coming out of Oregon. Whether by design or just misfortune, however, Kelly stayed where he was and ultimately traded for Sam Bradford to run his high-powered offense while Mariota was taken by the Tennessee Titans at number two. Both clubs hit the skids as the season unfolded.
Plagued by mismatched signings that included DeMarco Murray's bloated five-year, $40 million dollar contract, and combined with questionable trades and personnel decisions that saw pro-bowlers LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin end up elsewhere, the Philadelphia Eagles tanked their season. Even playing in the dreadful NFC East wasn't enough to help Kelly make it through the entire year, as he was dumped by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie before the final regular season game this coming Sunday.
Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota lit up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on opening day to the tune of four touchdown passes before watching his entire organization crumble around him. Tennessee went on to lose their next six games before coach Ken Whisenhunt, who was only in his second season with the team, was let go midway through. The Titans are not expected to retain interim coach Mike Mularkey's services after the season ends.
Rapoport meanwhile speculated of a potential Kelly to Tennessee swap some months earlier even speaking to a Titans front office executive about it. At the time, Kelly wasn't in consideration because he was already coaching the Eagles. Rapoport now believes Kelly is in the conversation.
"Do not discount the Tennessee Titans, especially if Kelly did not want personnel control, which of course would seem to be a huge ask considering what happened in Philly this year," Rapoport said.
Where do you think Chip Kelly will coach next season? Will he reunite with Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans or end up back in college?
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