— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2013
There appear to be three legitimate NFL suitors for Chip Kelly if he decides that it's time to move on from Oregon. He'll likely end up picking one of them in the next couple of days. Let's take a look at why he would choose one particular team over the other.
Kelly could look for a situation that offers him...
The most control: The Cleveland Browns.
Chip has always been rumored to want to control an NFL team with absolute power, similar to how he runs things at Oregon. He doesn't want meddlers interrupting his offense, or making personnel decisions.
It seems as if the Browns might not be in the best situation out there (particularly compared to the rumored names), but control could be their trump card. They might give Chip the reins to run the system he sees fit here. There could be growing pains, but Kelly would be given the time to find the players he needs to make his system go. Additionally, much of the talent on Cleveland is young and can still be developed to run the type of plays that make his offense so lethal.
The downside is Chip might have to wait awhile before the Browns boast a winning roster. And if you've watched Chip's interviews or his teams, those squads tend to be in a hurry to keep on winning. Patience might not be something Kelly is waiting for, so he could opt to compromise on his power play in favor of...
The best situation: The Philadelphia Eagles.
They are one of the best professional organizations out there and are dedicated to winning for the long haul. They stuck with Andy Reid through the good times and the bad, but when things really went south they ejected and prepared to find a new pilot. If Philadelphia gives him enough control along with a solid enough salary, this is probably where he ends up.
The Eagles are tailor-made to win sooner rather than later. They have great offensive weapons that can create havoc in space. They have solid talent on both sides of the football that needs a new injection of life at the coaching position. They have an organization dedicated to winning. They're a team that plays in a division that already has one team embracing college spread/pistol looks, and they might be willing to take the next step and embrace the full dealio.
But do the Eagles want Kelly to fall in line? Will they be willing to grant Chip full powers or will they demand a little piece of the action? Are all these veterans ready to shift to a totally new system of offense midway through their careers? How much upheaval could be needed before Philly is ready to run what Kelly has in store for them?
The best personnel: The Buffalo Bills
People might think the Bills are a mess. And they would be correct. But for the type of offense that Chip would want to run, Buffalo might be the perfect marriage. They have two speedy running backs who excel in shotgun runs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. They have a quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who doesn't have a great arm but can spread it around the field and knows how to operate four verticals. They have solid but unspectacular options at receiver outside of Stevie Johnson, but this is undoubtedly a team that only needs a clear and coherent system to start getting back on track.
And one other thing that might really attract Kelly? The only time the Bills enjoyed consistent success as a franchise in the modern era was when they employed the K-Gun, an offense that loved to run at the same fast-paced tempo as Kelly's.
There is the question of money. It's hard to imagine Buffalo outbidding Cleveland or Philadelphia for a name as hot as Chip's. The Bills have been stuck hiring retreads for much of the past decade because they lack the resources to go after the name that seems to be the most fitting for their team. That might cause them issues down the road.
After all those NFL looks, there's a chance he might not be totally sold on what he ends up seeing. So he might end up with the offer that provides...
The most money and familiarity. The Oregon Ducks.
If this is what Chip is looking for, then he will never leave Eugene. As much as an NFL team can throw at Chip, Phil Knight can and will outspend almost everyone on the table. Knight pulled Kelly out of the pros once (nearly a year ago, from the big spending pockets of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). If Kelly is leveraging this NFL talk for a bigger deal, Knight's pockets are pretty bottomless. There are few others who parallel his spending power in college football.
And there is great uncertainty with Chip and the NFL. In Oregon, he has some of the best facilities in the country, a boatload of players tailor made to execute his system, and one of the most stable coaching staffs in a college football industry where assistants change jobs by the week. Most importantly, he has a national title contender every season. That doesn't figure to change anytime soon.
The big question with Chip: Can he risk sanctions? No one really knows what exactly what type of law the NCAA Committee of Infractions will lay down on Oregon, or whether they'll bring Kelly in for questioning. If they do find violations, and the NCAA lays down a few years of hard pain, then Oregon might be compelled to let Kelly go regardless. That has to be sticking in the back of his mind; he might end up with another college program, but leaving for the NFL after violations put his team on probation could lower his stock just a little bit.
"I don't expect anything," Kelly said, "I'm never surprised by anything."
So we wait.