After months of rumors everything has come into fruition and UCLA has landed one of college football's highest profile coaches with a 5-year, $23.3 million dollar deal which includes a $9-million dollar reciprocal buyout.
Most UCLA fans had clearly become disillusioned with Mora and a change was needed. Kelly was the clearly best choice to replace Mora.
This Hire Shows that UCLA is Finally Ready to Win Games
Despite putting lots of money into their football program, consistently having one of the highest paid coaches in the nation, and generally pulling in a large amount of NFL-caliber talent, UCLA's commitment to their football program has been doubted. For myself and many others, this seals it and shows that UCLA is finally interested in winning. Kelly has one of the best track records of winning in college football, including a 44-5 record in four seasons at Oregon.
I don't hold Kelly's lackluster NFL track record against him. The main things Kelly brings to the table as a coach (experimental offensive schemes and an intense devotion to recruiting) don't really transfer to the NFL all that well. Kelly is a college coach at heart and, when he was a college coach, he did a damn good job.
The move also makes sense to me considering Kelly did this at a Pac-12 team and a traditionally non-elite Pac-12 team at that. He's already used to playing, scouting, and dominating all the other teams in this conference.
It Helps With Recruiting
I can see the Chip Kelly hire help recruiting in three distinct ways. First, it revitalizes the UCLA football program. A team that was starting to look plodding and old-fashioned now has a uniquely fresh air to it. This makes it a much more attractive option to potential high school recruits.
Second, Chip Kelly is a ferocious recruiter, almost to a flaw. He did very well bringing in top-tier talent in Oregon and, once the talent had arrived, he did very well at nurturing it. Combine that with the fact that Kelly has now landed in one of the largest hotbeds of high school football talent in the country. It's pretty hard to imagine UCLA being at a loss for talent. Third, I'm willing to bet that there are a lot of players who will go to UCLA because they want to play for Chip Kelly. Just having the name associated with your program brings in talent.
Note that I'm not saying having Kelly on the staff immediately turns around next year's recruiting class but long-term having Kelly as head coach is a major asset for UCLA's recruiting.
It Gives Josh Rosen a Reason to Stay
This is certainly not the main reason why I'm happy Chip Kelly was hired but you have to think it might give Josh Rosen one more reason to stay. I would imagine that the prospect of playing under Kelly's legendarily quirky offensive schemes would be a dream for Rosen, who has played the past three years in a very traditional NFL-style offense.
If Rosen stays, he'll be the most talented quarterback Kelly has ever gotten to work with and the potential of a Rosen-Kelly offense (especially if Kelly can help improve the sub-par offensive line) is extraordinary.
Kelly is the Anti-Mora
Kelly brings with him a much-needed culture change. As much as I respect Jim Mora the man, Jim Mora the coach proved too passive. Mora failed to take necessary risks and failed to make use of the copious talent which UCLA has consistently attained. Simply put, Kelly is the opposite of Mora. We all know how interesting his Oregon offenses were but everyone forgets about how unorthodox the Oregon defense was. Under Kelly, Oregon's defense was aggressive, fast, and dominant, yielding a negative turnover differential.
To put it simply, hiring Kelly moves UCLA from being a conservative, bogged-down program with half a defense to potentially being the most interesting team in the Pac-12.
Conclusion: Expectations for Kelly's First Year
It's going to be difficult for Kelly to turn around the program in one season so I'm not holding my breath for next season. That being said there are probably several reasonable expectations I have for Kelly's first season: a winning record, an improved defense, intelligent influx of recruits on both sides on the ball, and, most importantly, a renewed commitment towards being a national championship team.