FLYOVER COUNTRY—Next Man In
This is not my regular column because the topic is not about anything that regularly happens with Oregon Football.
Chip Kelly has departed for the Philadelphia Eagles. To that I am inclined to say only, “Thanks Chip and good luck.” The man doesn’t technically owe Oregon Football anything but ongoing gratitude for plucking him out of obscurity. He strikes me as the type of man who will never forget that.
Without fanfare, Chip has visited servicemen and women in places as far flung as Afghanistan. I like to think that though he himself never served in the military, that he gets the ethos of the armed forces. He took what lessons he could from these institutions and instilled an “esprit
de corp” in Oregon Football that wasn’t previously there. The meticulous planning and organization, the willingness to train, the selfless player attitudes towards stats, starting, and playing time, all of these were taken to a new level under Chip Kelly. He gets what makes an organization a committed and unstoppable force. You take high character individuals, you mold them together as true brothers in arms, and regardless of their experience, you train them to do the entire positional job the best that you can in case they are called upon at a moment’s notice.
I served in the Navy, so better than many I get one of Chip’s favorite sayings: “Next man in.” Sailors get promoted and transferred. They retire. They move on to the civilian world, at times for relatively large salary increases. Unfortunately, sometimes they even get crippled or killed in the line of duty. If they did their jobs correctly and with foresight, they properly trained the sailors they left behind so they are all up to the task of replacing the departed. In a well constructed and well run organization, its best hallmark is if no one, from the top to the bottom, is indispensable to it functioning at an optimum level.
So if you think Chip Kelly “betrayed” Oregon Football with his departure, you don’t get anything about what he has done in his tenure here. Everyone moves on. What you leave behind is how you are measured. I have every confidence, until proven wrong, that Chip did show Mark Helfrich and the the staff what it takes to feed and care for the beast of a football program he raised up. Chip built a culture here that is rather unique if press reports about the practices and team meetings are to be believed. The staff and players that remain have seen and lived all of it. Where there was one guy with a vision, now there are many who completely earned a share of it.
You cannot possibly judge Chip Kelly for years to come. He didn’t singlehandedly build Oregon Football, nor run it, so his leaving, under any circumstance, cannot possibly destroy it. To think that Oregon Football is over because it has somehow had its architect land near Paddy’s Irish Pub is to nurture a cult of personality that I think Chip himself would be the first to disavow.
Buck up Ducks fans. Oregon Football is still very much a going concern.