Chip Kelly: I would never leave a job for another during season

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- One day after his father was buried in San Francisco 49ers gear out of devotion to his son, coach Chip Kelly invoked a lesson in loyalty from his dad in explaining why he didn't leave for the head-coaching job at the University of Oregon.

"I think with all those questions, and hopefully this is the end of it for me, is that I will never leave my job for another job while a season is going on," Kelly said. "I don't think that's fair. I didn't do it when I was in college. I never talked to anybody in the National Football League until after our bowl game was over.

"I think in the NFL they have a great rule; you're not allowed to leave your job. If you're in the playoffs you can't go until your season is done. It's tough with the cycle that goes on in college. So, when I've said that I'm not going back to college, there's never going to be an opportunity for me to go back to college, because I have a job. I will not leave a team with three games to go because I got a bigger, better deal somewhere. That's not the way I'm wired and that's not what I would ever do."

The way Kelly is wired is a reflection of E. Paul Kelly, his 87-year old father who died Friday night and was laid to rest in Portland, Maine, on Tuesday afternoon.

"That's one thing I did learn from my dad," Kelly said. "They (the 49ers) made a commitment to me. I made a commitment to them. I'm not searching around and looking for other jobs while I have a job. I have a job to take care of, and I would be disingenuous and wouldn't be loyal to the players I coach, and those are the most important people that I deal with on a daily basis. I talk to them about making sacrifices all the time and being all-in and doing all that, and then I'm looking to try to go find a job while all this is going on?

"I will never leave my job. I never have in the past and I'm not going to leave my job if I still have games to coach. That's what my deal is. I have a commitment. I learned that from my father. We can talk about my dad. I made a commitment to -- whether it was a university I was at, I made a commitment to a football team that I was at, and I just won't do that."

Despite rampant speculation to the contrary, Kelly insisted for the better part of the past two months that he didn't have any interest in returning to Eugene to coach the Ducks despite his past success there and the Niners' current struggles.

Since the 49ers are 1-11, amid an 11-game losing streak, Kelly would have had reason to depart for a better situation. But he made it clear Wednesday that he had no interest in following in the footsteps of former Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, who left for Arkansas with three games to go in the 2007 season.

Before Wednesday, Kelly had mostly stuck to simple a "no" when asked about his interest in Oregon or any other coaching vacancy, but he had never so forcefully and thoroughly explained why.

After Oregon on Wednesday morningtabbed South Florida coach Willie Taggart to replace Mark Helfrich, Kelly was compelled to go in-depth about how he disagrees with the idea of abandoning a team in the middle of the season for another job.

"I could never look (safety) Antoine Bethea or (tackle) Joe Staley in the face again and talk to them about commitment, and then if I was the guy that had a job that was offered that I thought was better than the one I had and I took off on them with three games to go, that's just not the way I'm wired," Kelly said. "I think some guys do it. I would never do it.

"I don't know why college questions ever come up with me because I would never leave my players before the season ended, and that's what I've said all along and that's the way I'll always be. So if that precludes me from ever being involved in a college job, then that precludes me from ever being involved in a college job. So hopefully you guys don't ever have to ask that question again."

Kelly returned to the Bay Area on Tuesday night after attending his father's funeral. His players greeted him warmlyWednesday. Kelly stopped to give a few players a hug as he walked on the field for practice.

Minutes earlier, Kelly shared fond memories of his father, providing a rare glimpse into a private life he has doggedly protected.

"My dad is loyal now," Kelly said. "He knows where his son was. So he actually got buried in 49ers gear. He did not want to wear a suit in the coffin. He wore a suit for his whole career as a trial lawyer, but he wanted to wear a 49ers sweatsuit when he passed away."