Chip Kelly is taking the 2017 season off from coaching after being fired by the San Francisco 49ers, but will still be involved in football, spending the season as a college football analyst for ESPN. However, that's not expected to be a new career for him - simply a bridge to another job next season, a la Urban Meyer in 2011 before taking the Ohio State job.
Kelly would likely entertain offers from both college and NFL teams, but with him serving as a college analyst and lack of success in the NFL over the past two seasons, it seems likely that he'll return to the college game. With Oregon hiring Willie Taggart this offseason, a reunion with Kelly won't happen - but which schools could pursue him? Here are the five most likely options for Kelly:
5) Auburn Tigers
Auburn is expected to have a great year in 2017 with Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham set to start at quarterback, and head coach Gus Malzahn really needs one. After leading the Tigers to the national championship game in his first season, Malzahn has gone just 23-16 in the last three years combined. Another disappointing season will mean that Malzahn is out of a job.
If Auburn does need a new coach for 2018, they could be an attractive option to Kelly. They're a SEC power with plenty of talent already on the roster and are in a fertile recruiting ground. However, having to compete with Alabama every year may be a drawback - though those Nick Saban-Chip Kelly matchups would be a LOT of fun to watch.
4) Tennessee Volunteers
Butch Jones has done a good job rebuilding the Tennessee program, but after last year's disappointment, he needs to win this year to keep his job. Another traditional SEC power that could appeal to Kelly, the Vols are in the much easier SEC East and are the top dog in their state.
3) UCLA Bruins
UCLA is probably the best West Coast option for Kelly. Jim Mora has done well with the Bruins, but they're 12-13 over the last two years. Like all of the other programs on this list, another down year will mean that UCLA is looking for a new coach.
Kelly has extensive knowledge of the Pac-12 from his days at Oregon, and his recruiting prowess could do wonders with the lure of Los Angeles behind him. But, like with Auburn and Alabama, would Kelly want to go to a school that traditionally plays second-fiddle on the football field to USC?
2) Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M AD Scott Woodward has already said that head coach Kevin Sumlin "has to win this year" or he'll be gone. And if he's gone, they will be a very attractive opening to Kelly. The Aggies are the SEC recruiting power in the fertile state of Texas, have as much tradition as anyone and are looking to take another step forward. They also have the funds to give Kelly the kind of lucrative deal that would bring him back to the college game.
1) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame has as much appeal as any program in the country with their tradition, fan base, talent on the roster and national recruiting reach. Brian Kelly was nearly fired last year, and he will be if the Irish are average again in 2017. Kelly would almost immediately be Notre Dame's top option, and his innovation would breathe some new life into the program.