What if Chip had stayed at Oregon?

The Eagles have been the most scrutinized team in the NFL since Chip Kelly arrived in Philly from the Pacific Northwest. He brought with him a college style of coaching and a new offense that many assumed could not work at the professional level. He has burned more than his fair share of bridges as well with many of his now former players.

Chip_Kelly
Kelly had a 46-7 record in his five years at Oregon before leaving for Philly.

For better or worse, Chip has completely changed the landscape of the NFL in his three years as head coach. But what if he had never left? What if Kelly had decided to stay out at Oregon and run his fast-paced offense? That is exactly what we are going to talk about right now.

Well first thing is first, the Eagles need a new coach when Andy Reid is fired following the 2012 season. So Philly brings in current Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer. Zimmer was tabbed by Minnesota in 2014 but because he is still a coordinator in Cincy in 2013, the Eagles snap him up instead.

The team approach for Philly completely changes. Zimmer brings in a defensive presence to an Eagles team that desperately needed it. Philadelphia had ranked tied for 29th in the league in 2012 for scoring defense. Needless to say, Zimmer would look to bring in some fresh faces. Needing a solid defensive end, Philly targets Michael Bennett from the Bengals in offseason and avoids letting Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie walk away.

Michael_Bennett
Bennett won a ring in 2013 with the Seattle Seahawks.

Already the defense looks better and some very important things happen for the Eagles offense. Zimmer never isolates DeSean Jackson so he stays and there is no push a year later for Jeremy Maclin or LeSean McCoy to leave. Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis never feel unwelcome either. Philly keeps together their core together instead.

2013 proves to be an excellent year for Philly as they once again capture the NFC East crown, but this time, Zimmer gets a playoff win against New Orleans, as his defense finds a way to limit Drew Brees on the road. The Eagles travel to Carolina the following week and pick up a big victory against the favored Panthers. Philly runs into a buzz saw in the form of Seattle in the NFC Championship game though and sit at home as the Seahawks blow out the Broncos. Overall though, it is a very positive start to the Zimmer era in Philly.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, the Ducks enter the season as a team with major National Title aspirations again but have a legitimate chance of getting the job done with Kelly at the helm. He and sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota manage to go the whole season with just one loss, a blowout defeat against Arizona. Kelly calling the shots proves to be enough for Oregon to beat Stanford and hold onto their title aspirations much longer. Instead of finishing 10th in the standings, the Ducks finish fifth and earn a spot in the 2014 Rose Bowl in place of Stanford.

Zimmer continue to prepare his team for a very important 2014 campaign though over in Philadelphia. His core of McCoy, Jackson, Maclin and rookie Jordan Matthews pace the offense and make life easy on Nick Foles. The defense, led by Michael Bennett, Trent Cole, Connor Barwin and rookie Bradley Roby, proves to do enough for Philly to make the playoffs in 2014 instead of just missing out. The team moves forward mainly due to avoiding a late season loss to Washington.

The Eagles enter the postseason with a matchup against Dallas on the horizon. The Cowboys split the regular season series with Philly but they lost at home then and they do again here. That mean Philly travels to Seattle for the divisional round and for the second straight year, the Eagles fall against the Seahawks in the playoffs.

Marcus_Mariota
Mariota was the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

Checking back in on the West Coast, Marcus Mariota is tipped to be the Heismann winner with Kelly at the helm. Oregon is coming off a Rose Bowl win and looks to be a lock for the College Football playoff. They finish the season with just one loss for the second consecutive year under Kelly, the loss once again coming against rival Arizona. Mariota bolsters his draft stock in his junior season and takes home the Heismann Trophy by a landslide. Oregon still ends up in the National Title game, still against Ohio State. The game ends a lot closer this time around but still in an Ohio State win.

The 2015 NFL draft rolls around and after his transcendent performance under Kelly at Oregon, Mariota leapfrogs Jameis Winston in the predraft build up. Mariota goes number one overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee is left to take Winston second.

Damarious_Randall
The Packers selected Randall with the 30th pick in the draft.

Later on in the first round, selecting after the would’ve this year, the Eagles instead take Arizona State safety Damarious Randall to bolster the secondary then draft the troubled Randy Gregory in the second round. Now, Zimmer has all of the pieces he wants to play with on defense and Philly enters the season as an early season favorite to win the NFC instead of a team with dozens of questions surrounding it.

McCoy never winds up in Buffalo, Maclin never joins Andy Reid in Kansas City. DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews never join during the offseason. Instead, Mathews heads to Tennesee to help the rebuilding Titans. Murray takes his talent (or lack there of) to Baltimore.

Who would’ve thought that the NFL would change this much just because Chip Kelly decided to stay at Oregon.

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National Championship preview

It may be the first of many to come but this College Football Playoff has been exciting from the very beginning and is definitely an improvement to the old system. Now, we will see who wins the ultimate prize of a National Championship when Oregon clashes with Ohio States. The battle of the Ducks and the Bucks will be a heated one and I am here to break down what you need to know for the game.

This marks the first meeting between the Buckeyes and Ducks since 2009, when Ohio State defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl. In the previous eight meetings between these teams, Oregon has never managed to win a game. History is not going to matter too much in this matchup but it is definitely not in the Ducks’ favor. In that 2009 Rose Bowl loss, Oregon’s signal caller was Jeremiah Masoli, who ended up transferring to Ole Miss following the season. This year the Ducks have Heisman winner Marcus Mariota under center, which is certainly a major upgrade over Masoli. Mariota might not be the only reason the Ducks are in the title game but he is definitely a key component to this championship run. The Hawaiian-born quarterback has been nothing short of excellent this year amassing 4121 passing yards and 56 total touchdowns, 40 through the air, 15 on the ground and even 1 receiving. He has a quarterback rating of 184.3, ranking as one of the best single season marks in history. Mariota was also one of the best avoiding turnovers throwing only 3 interceptions on 408 attempts. That means that Mariota threw an interception on less than 1 percent of his throws. He accomplished all of this while completing a career high 68.6 percent of his passes as well. He will be the focal point of this Oregon squad.

Mariota struggled a bit more than we are used to seeing at the beginning of the Florida State game but settled down and had a stellar second half. It will be largely up to the Ohio State defense to keep the Buckeyes in this game. The offense can score, as we saw when it racked up 42 points against a top defense in Alabama on New Year’s Day, but the defense will need to keep Mariota and this high flying Duck’s attack in check. This group will be up to the task. The Buckeye’s secondary came up with three interceptions of Blake Sims last week and the defensive line limited the big plays from Bama’s tailback duo of Xavier Henry and T.J. Yeldon. This pass rush also registered 43 sacks on the season, which ranks ninth in FBS. This defense is explosive and can make Mariota uncomfortable. Ohio State is also the type of team that could really do a lot of damage to the Duck’s offense but not in the way you would think. The Buckeyes’ grounded out 281 yards rushing against the nation’s second best run defense in the Sugar Bowl. Oregon ranks all the way down at fiftieth in terms of run defense and that could spell trouble for the Ducks. If Ohio State can run the ball effectively with Ezekiel Elliot, they will not only wear out Oregon, they will also limit the number of chances Mariota gets to make plays on offense. Usually, Oregon’s fast paced offense has tired out defenses by the end of games, making it easy to score, but if the Ducks are getting fewer drives then Ohio State’s defense should be able to hold up for the entirety of the game. That should be Ohio States game plan going into this game: run the ball and keep the Heisman winning quarterback for the Ducks on the sideline. Elliot will be the center of the Buckeye’s attack, and if he gets rolling, it could spell the end for Oregon’s title hopes.

Oregon’s defense might have a slight edge though as they will get to face Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones in only his third career start. The Buckeye’s are rolling right now and changing quarterbacks for the second time this season has not seemed to affect them but Jones is still young and learning. The sophomore from Cleveland struggled against Alabama’s defense, particularly when the Buckeye’s were in passing downs. He completed only 51.4 percent of his passes and definitely seemed like he was not fully ready to handle throwing more than twice as many passes in the Sugar Bowl than he did in the Big Ten Championship game. Oregon’s pass rush is talented as well registering 36 sacks on the year. If Oregon can find a way to slow down the Ohio State running game and force the Buckeyes into third and long situations, we could see some the Buckeyes’ offense stalling quite a bit. I would not be surprised if the Ducks defense crowds the box and forces Jones to beat them using his arm. It is risky but the kid is still fairly young and is liable to make some costly mistakes.

The players might be on the field, but the coaches control the game. These two coaches come from very different backgrounds. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has two national titles to his name from his time with the Florida Gators. Mark Helfrich spent a few years as the offensive coordinator in Oregon following his time at Colorado as the offensive coordinator. Meyer has eight years of head coaching experience; Helfrich is just completing his second season as the lead man in Pacific Northwest. Both have been extremely successful in their respective coaching careers. Meyer and Helfrich are a combined 49-6 over the past two years. Neither one of them is going to back down and both know what this would mean to their respective programs. For Meyer, it would be validating that Ohio State is back and that the Big 10 can be a premier conference. For Helfrich, it will be the school’s first national title and completely pull Helfrich out of Chip Kelly’s shadow. These two are both great coaches and should have many more years of running top programs but only one will be the first ever college football playoff champion.

As for which of them it will be raising that trophy while soaked in Gatorade, it is a tough call. Oregon’s offense is second to none but the suspension of freshman wide receiver Darren Carrington is a big blow. He was a big play machine against Florida State accounting for 165 yards and two touchdowns. At the same time, Ohio State is still trying to find their way offensively with a quarterback in his third ever start on the biggest stage possible. The first half will be full of experimentation by both teams as we see what these coaches have cooked up over the past week and half for this game. I really like Ohio State’s chances in this game, but I cannot go against the Heisman winner in Mariota. He won the award for his continually incredible play and I think, in the end, he will be the difference maker. This game will absolutely be high scoring and Ohio State will be competitive but Oregon wins 47-38.