PHOENIX — Don’t ask Chip Kelly about the NFL.
Reporters who have spent time around the Oregon Ducks‘ head coach have long since learned this lesson – but given the growing buzz around Kelly’s impending courtship with the professional ranks, and the vast array of media that have descended upon Phoenix from all across the country, the questions were inevitable as Kelly and Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder met with the media Wednesday, with the 42nd annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl just a day away.
When asked if he expects to listen to offers in the next week – a doomed question from the start – Kelly retorted sarcastically, “I’m waiting for an offer from you. I will listen and I am excited if you do want to give me a call.”
Less pointed questions, however, and questions centered around tomorrow’s game offered some insight into what the future may hold for Kelly, and how he’s become such a highly sought commodity. Much of that insight came not only from Kelly, but Snyder, who at age 73, has been in and out of college football since 1966.
In his first tenure as the Wildcats’ head coach, from 1989-2005, Snyder had a number of opportunities to jump to the NFL, to which, in his own words, he said “No, thank you.”
“My feeling is that it’s such a different environment, you really don’t have the capacity to have the kind of impact that you would like to have on young people,” said Snyder. “I always said, ‘I’m not sure I want to work someplace where the people you’re supposed to have control over make more money than you do.’ That’s kind of the way the NFL is.”
“You get stories back from players in the NFL. Sometimes you wonder who really is in control,” he added.
Snyder, who returned to Kansas State in 2009 and has since brought the program back to national prominence, is old school college football personified. When asked about Oregon’s ever-changing uniforms, he said he hoped they wouldn’t be “distracting” to his players.
“It’s what they do. I applaud them for that. It’s not what we do.”
Snyder also called himself a “tremendous proponent” of the BCS bowl system, despite plans to implement a four team playoff in 2014.
“I was never necessarily fond of a playoff system. But they’re trying to piece it together so that it doesn’t impact the bowl system itself. As long as that takes place, then I’m comfortable with it.”
Kelly was non-committal when asked about a playoff.
“Unfortunately they don’t ask us (coaches). We don’t get a vote,” he said. “We knew what the rules of engagement were when the season started, and I’ve always believed the regular season, the way it is right now in college football, is a playoff game starting from game one.”
If speculation comes true, Kelly may not be around college football to experience a playoff system. Seven NFL head coaches were fired Monday, following Sunday’s regular season-ending games, accounting for nearly a quarter of the league. If made available, Kelly is expected to be highly sought for one or more of those jobs.
The interest is understandable. In taking the Ducks to the Fiesta Bowl, Kelly has now overseen four consecutive BCS bowl teams, and has compiled a record of 45 wins and 7 losses. His patented spread offense attack has set numerous records, and is believed by some to be a catalyst in shifting offensive philosophies on the professional level.
Kelly, who said his offensive style developed out of necessity while coaching at New Hampshire, due to a lack of available fullbacks, strayed from describing himself as an innovator.
“I said this a long time ago, if you weren’t in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne when they invented this game, you stole it from somebody else.”
Despite differing styles of interacting with the media – Kelly speaks in a rapid fire cadence, is sometimes curt, sometimes verbose, and often facetious. When asked about how he liked press conferences, Kelly said with a twinkle in his eye: “It’s certainly the highlight of my day. I love when it’s the first thing in the morning, because it can’t get any worse after this.”
Conversely, Snyder speaks in a slow cadence, and answers questions in a straight-forward manner, mostly devoid of humor.
Even still, there are parallels to be drawn between the two coaches that will have brought their teams to Phoenix. Both prefer physical, contact-heavy practices. Both emphasized the importance of special teams play. Both have faced scrutiny from the iron-fisted NCAA.
Thursday, the talk will halt – if only for a few hours. Finally, after nearly a month of build-up, there will be football for Kelly’s and Snyder’s teams.
The Oregon Ducks (11-1, 8-1) and the Kansas State Wildcats (11-1, 8-1) will square off Thursday at 6:30 PM local time, 5:30 PM on the west coast. The game will be televised on ESPN. Eugene Daily News will be in Phoenix to bring you all the info and analysis on the game.