CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Coaches
Who were the top 20 coaches since CFN started in 1998? No. 15 Chip Kelly, Oregon
CFN Era Top 20 Coaches: No. 15 Chip Kelly, Oregon
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, so we’re looking back on the greatest players, games, coaches and more since we first kicked things off back in 1998.
Wins and losses are certainly a part of it all – okay, a massive part of this – but it’s also about who came up with the biggest coaching performances over the long haul. Consistency matters, championships matter, and personality plays a role, too.
Who are the 20 coaches who defined college football since 1998?
One note, accomplishments before 1998 don’t count, other than when it comes to a coach’s legacy and overall status.
Chip Kelly, Oregon (2009-2012)
Chip Kelly was a bit of a gamble of a hire, but he paid off in a big, big way.
While he was only a college football head coach for four years, his era packed a wallop with three Pac-12 championships, a 12-1 season in the year he didn’t win the conference title, one national title appearance, two Rose Bowls, and a Fiesta.
Not bad for a guy from New Hampshire.
Kelly bounced around the college football assistant circuit, but mostly on the FCS level. While he never had any head coaching experience, as the New Hampshire offensive coordinator he cranked up the offense to a whole other level, with his innovative, high-octane, hurry-up style dominating the FCS.
When Mike Bellotti brought Kelly on as the Oregon offensive coordinator in 2007, it ushered in a new era of offense that would eventually rule the Pac-10/eventually Pac-12 world.
The Ducks went from solid under Bellotti to great, with an offense that scored 383 points the year before Kelly came on, the 496 – with two more wins – in 2007, to 545 points and a ten-win run in 2008. When Bellotti moved on to the athletic director gig, Kelly took over the reins, and … boom.
The Oregon offense went from great to – eventually – unstoppable.
After a strong 10-3 first season with a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, the O scored 611 points in 2010 and 645 in both 2011 and 2012, averaging over 47 points per game.
Over the final 50 games over the 53-game Kelly era, the Ducks scored fewer than 40 points just nine times.
How good were Kelly’s teams? He went 33-3 in conference play, with two losses to Stanford and one to USC in a 38-35 thriller in 2011.
Okay, so Kelly bolted for the NFL just as Oregon was got hit by the NCAA with a three-year probation, but in terms of results, he produced, while setting the wheels in motion for what would eventually be a run to the national title game in 2014.
Biggest Moment: 2012 Rose Bowl
Kelly was able to get Oregon to the 2010 Rose Bowl – and lost to Ohio State.
Rich Brooks took the Ducks to the 1995 Rose Bowl – and lost to Penn State.
the 1957 Oregon team lost to Ohio State in the Rose, and the 1919 team dropped a 7-6 Rose Bowl fight to Harvard.
So when Kelly took the 2011 team to Pasadena, he was trying to get the program its first Rose Bowl win since the 1916 team finished the drill for the first and then only time.
In an under-appreciated thriller against a loaded Wisconsin team, De’Anthony Thomas had too much flash for the Badger D, tearing off touchdown runs of 91 and 64 yards, while LaMichael James cranked up 159 yards and a score.
But it was an early fourth quarter Darron Thomas touchdown pass to Lavasier Tunenei that gave the Ducks the lead for good – and then the defense hung on for dear life.
Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson bombed away to keep pushing in the fourth, but turnovers and a few other mistakes kept the Badgers from tying it up.
The Ducks held on with a terrific 45-38 win thanks to 621 yards of total offense against a defense that allowed 17 points or fewer ten times.
Chip Kelly’s Best Season: 2010
Coming off a good first season and a run to the Rose Bowl, everything kicked into high gear in Kelly’s second campaign.
The Ducks set the tone early with a 72-0 blasting of New Mexico that could’ve been much, much worse, and followed it up with a blowout at Tennessee and a 69-0 win over Portland State.
The defense started to have a few problems, but the offense more than made up for it with a good performance against Arizona State before handing Stanford its only loss of the season in a 52-31 firefight.
With the offense on cruise control, it was able to blow away Washington State, UCLA and Washington before surviving a bizarre 15-13 clunker at Cal.
Everything got rolling again over the last two games for a 12-0 regular season, a Pac-10 title, and a date against Cam Newton and Auburn for the BCS Championship.
Michael Dyer and the Tiger ground game pushed for a walk-off game-winning field goal to give Auburn the 22-19 win and the national title. But if it makes any sense, coming so close to winning it all proved that Kelly and Oregon could produce at the highest level.
Chip Kelly’s Worst Season: 2008
Kelly took over the Oregon head coaching job and was supposed to take the offense and the program to a whole other level. And what happened in the debut?
Boise State stuffed the Ducks in a totally dominant 19-8 win, highlighted by a LeGarrette Blount punch that became the talk of college football.
But in Kelly’s short head coaching era, a bad season was all relative.
The offense bounced back and the Ducks reeled off seven straight wins before losing to Stanford in a 51-42 shootout. Again, Oregon rallied back with the offense destroying Arizona State and Arizona, and then doing just enough to take the Civil War over Oregon State in a 37-33 fight.
Again, as worst seasons go, most coaches could only dream of having a year that finished with a conference championship and a Rose Bowl loss.
The offense struggled a bit too much against Ohio State, and the defense couldn’t handle Terrelle Pryor and company in the 26-17 loss to finish 10-3.
CFN Era Coaching Record: 46-7 in four years at Oregon
2010 Pac-10 Coach of the Year
2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell
Photo Credit: University of Oregon