It took just about as long as it takes a Chip Kelly offense to line up for the rumours to start.
Lane Kiffin had barely been pulled off the team bus and fired as the USC Trojans head football coach, and the Eagles had barely finished being manhandled by the superlative Denver Broncos 52-20 before the excitable pundits got all flustered and asked: Could Chip Kelly jump ship after only one season in the NFL?
The answer, and I know this is a bit of a dramatic anti-climax, is no. At the risk of making myself sound a fool come January, there is no chance Kelly will swap Philly for LA this summer. There is a greater chance that Lane Kiffin is rehired.
NFL.com pundit and respected back office veteran Gil Brandt wrote up his list of potential candidates, lumping Kelly with Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury. You can make reasonable cases for each of the other four, but Kelly? No chance. Here's why.
USC is a mess
Lane Kiffin has had three head coaching jobs. He's been fired mid-season in two of them and left Tennessee after one year. He's not a good coach. Yes, USC have struggled due to scholarship sanctions but this is one of the best colleges in the country, winning national titles (sort of), producing Heisman trophy winners (sort of) and cultivating one of the most prestigious programs in college football. Kiffin's team has no quarterback, a porous defense and no obvious signs of a desire to win. In one of the deepest recruiting states in the country, USC hauled in only the 63rd ranked recruiting class last year.
This team needs a huge amount of work. And besides all the problems they have now, hiring Kelly would only bring more. As a result of an NCAA investigation into recruiting infractions at Oregon, Kelly was hit with a show cause penalty meaning that, should he return to college football, any team that hires him will face a bundle of red tape and penalties in order to do so. It'd be a huge project for Chip Kelly, not a challenge he would necessarily shy from, but he's only just begun in Philly...
The five-year plan
As SBNation's Brandon Lee Gowton tweeted this week, Chip Kelly is on a five-year, $26million deal to coach Philadelphia. A huge investment. They're buying into Kelly to turn around the franchise which ran out of steam under Andy Reid. The Eagles front office didn't go through a painstaking search to hire the most exciting, inventive coach in football for him to change his heart after one year. Do you think general manager Howie Roseman and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie would have hired Kelly without asking: "Are you sure you're sure?"
Beyond that, Chip Kelly's time in the NFL will not be like Bobby Petrino's or Nick Saban's. One horrible season won't be enough for Kelly to give up. Kelly hasn't really coached a bad team in his career so far but he knew what he was signing on for. You don't take over a 4-12 team, fundamentally redesign both the offense and the defense and expect to win the Super Bowl straight away. Kelly knows that, the players know that and the Eagles brass know that.
Lurie is even reported as saying Kelly "won't be judged on wins and losses" in 2013. This is about revolutionising a team, not creating a wacky experiment to see what happens and then throwing your hands up in the air, sighing "oh well" and packing your bags after one season.
Chip Kelly's career path
Chip Kelly is not a "college coach" who'll flame out like Saban or Steve Spurrier. Kelly is a football coach who has been moving up the ranks to this point. He started out at New Hampshire, created a dynamic offense, moved to Oregon, created a dynamic offense and a winning program there, and hopefully he'll do the same in Philadelphia.
Despite the naysayers dismissing Kelly fast-paced attack as a "gimmick offense" with no chance at long-term success, the Eagles have racked up unbelievable numbers. Through Week Three of the season, the Eagles had the leading rusher in the league in the MVP-caliber LeSean McCoy and the league leader in receiving yards in DeSean Jackson. They became the first team in NFL history with over 1,000 passing yards and 750 rushing yards in the first four games of the season. Not a gimmick.
Clearly the offense isn't unstoppable, but it's pretty hard to stop. Imagine what it will look like after a couple of years once Kelly gets more guys who fit the system and the players are fully comfortable with the playbook. And, of course, once he's able to put a defense on the field who aren't haemorrhaging yards at a higher rate than last year's New Orleans Saints who, of course, allowed the most yards in NFL history with 7,042 (the Eagles are set to beat that by a hundred or so yards).
Rumours started linking Kelly and USC because his not-great team were trounced by the consensus best team in the league, away, at the hands of Peyton Manning - the greatest quarterback to play the game. I don't think Chip Kelly is suddenly reconsidering his career after one terrible, but expected, loss.
The NFL is an offensive game, about efficiently marching down the field and robbing the defense of any chance of stopping you. That's the kind of team Chip Kelly built at Oregon and it's the kind of team Kelly is trying to build in Philadelphia.
As the truly exceptional Eagles blogger Tommy Lawlor wrote on his Iggles Blitz blog this week, Andy Reid started badly his first year; Super Bowl-winning Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 his first year in Dallas; the great Joe Gibbs started 0-5 his first time round in Washington. Philadelphia are a bad team but they're focused on recreating a programme from the ground up.
For Kelly, Philadelphia is the future. College football and USC is the past.