Jim Mora Jr. was fired by UCLA after a disappointing run. Who might be next to take over?
It should’ve worked a whole lot better.
Jim Mora Jr. was a profession head football coach who started out working in a town that didn’t have professional football.
USC was still trying to get back on track after all the drama from the Reggie Bush era and beyond, and there was an open window for UCLA to come barging through.
Mora was able to recruit well, he got UCLA to the Pac-12 Championship in his first season, and he won 29 games in his first three seasons.
And then things took a tumble.
Injuries were an issue, but more than anything else, Mora’s ultra-talented teams couldn’t run well, couldn’t stop the run, and that was about it. Even the talents of Josh Rosen couldn’t bail out a program that won nine games in the last two years – and could still probably go bowling this season.
So now what?
Jedd Fisch will take over in the interim, but this is a mega-watt job that requires a mega-watt head coach. Outside of LaVar Ball – he seems to be a bit busy – who are the right prospects to take over?
Chip Kelly, broadcaster: professional NFL buyout taker
This is it. This is the guy. Florida allegedly wants him, but UCLA might just try to swoop in and make it happen first.
Kelly is a better fit for the Pac-12. He knows the league, should be able to recruit LA well right out of the box, and his fun style of play is exactly what the base needs.
And it would be the coaching hire that would make USC really, really nervous.
It’s the best of all possible worlds for Kelly. It’s like he’d be a pro coach again, working in a massive market, and getting to do what he does best.
And why would he want to beat his head against the SEC wall? USC is good, but it’s not Alabama or Georgia.
Lane Kiffin, Florida Atlantic: professional antagonist
He really is a fantastic college football head coach.
He comes with ten truckloads of baggage, and USC would take on a “fine, you take him” attitude, but he was solid in his one year at Tennessee, he got a bad break as the USC head man – the Bush sanctions were a legitimate excuse – and he was terrific as the Alabama offensive coordinator. And now he turned Florida Atlantic from nothing to a likely Conference USA champion in just one year.
He’s a pro-style head coach who can recruit, knows how to deal with Los Angeles, and would annoy the absolute hell out of USC. He’ll succeed wherever he goes next.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M: professional booster foil
Don’t laugh at this. There’s a real possibility he might fall up.
Texas A&M never really liked him after the production stalled post-Manziel, and it’s been trying to rumor up on a slew of decent names from James Franklin to now Jimbo Fisher.
So why would he be great for UCLA when he struggled so much at Texas A&M? Offense, offense, offense.
Yes, as the Mora era proved, you do need to have a running game and a defense, but you can win on talent and a high-powered passing game. He’ll get the quarterback talent to come in, he’ll get the air show going, and he’ll provide an instant boost for a perennial winner.
And he won’t have LSU and Alabama to deal with on a yearly basis.
Or, UCLA could jump into the young coaching derby.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State: professional miracle worker
Scott Frost is destined to Nebraska or Tennessee, and Dan Mullen will probably get the Florida gig after Kelly turns it down. But Campbell is also in the lot of the next-superstar-up.
But he hasn’t quite done it yet.
He knows how to get an offense going – he helped make Toledo great before turning Iowa State into a 2017 Giant Killer – and he’s got the right personality and upside to grow into the UCLA job.
It’s not a splashy enough hire, though. UCLA is going to want star power. It’s going to want an instant fix. Campbell will be a fantastic hire for wherever he’s going next.
But UCLA is going to want Chip Kelly.