Royer Gets Real: Chip Kelly’s time as UCLA football coach has expired
Coach Chip Kelly and members of UCLA football stand on the sidelines during a game. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)
Nov. 16, 2023 10:21 p.m.
Save Westwood the national embarrassment.
$4.50 for a Diddy Riese ice cream sandwich? Outrageous.
However, there is one thing more loathsome than the cost of a late-night sweet treat: the current occupancy of UCLA football’s head coaching job.
Nearing the conclusion of his sixth season in charge of the Bruins, coach Chip Kelly failed his latest test as the head honcho. Handed a 2023 schedule without conference frontrunners No. 5 Washington and No. 6 Oregon – as well as a cupcake nonconference slate – a Pac-12 championship game or New Year’s Six bowl game should have been in the sights, if not expected, for UCLA.
UCLA’s 17-7 loss to Arizona State on Saturday – a bleak display at the Rose Bowl – exposed Kelly’s decades-long reputation. His greatest strength suddenly barreled into his biggest downfall.
UCLA’s offense is downright bad.
After three consecutive top-20 offensive seasons, the Bruins have regressed all the way back to 2018 levels – a steep rollercoaster drop comparable to Kelly’s first season at the Rose Bowl, where UCLA tallied 24.6 points per game. The Bruins have averaged 26.4 points per game through 10 games this season, landing at 73rd in the nation and marking the second-worst offensive output since Kelly arrived in Westwood.
And with two contests – three, including a bowl game – remaining in the season, the Bruins’ offensive line is already the weakest and most porous in the Kelly era. The passing protection has conceded 33 sacks so far in 2023 – already the second-worst total since 2018 – making it a group that would place even the tough-to-take-down Dorian Thompson-Robinson in constant trouble.
At least there were valid excuses in year one.
At that point, Kelly didn’t have a complete say in the players of the program and had not implemented his offensive philosophy. Now, five years later, the 59-year-old offensive guru has still failed to do so. A class fully recruited by Kelly has never eclipsed 247Sports Composite’s Top 25 recruiting rankings, considering most of the 2018 class was recruited entirely by former coach Jim Mora.
Kelly’s best recruit since coming to Westwood was former five-star freshman Dante Moore. But the quarterback has fallen victim to his coach’s refusal to name a day-one starting quarterback and the never-ending shuffling of signal-callers from game to game. The quarterback whisperer – who once coached the likes of Marcus Mariota and Darron Thomas to unprecedented heights at Oregon and maneuvered a combination of Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez to a 10-6 record in the NFL – has become silent, unable to arrange the Bruins’ quarterback room into a competitive bunch.
But, hey – at least the transfer classes have been great, right? Copping out of seriously recruiting from Southern California high schools by focusing his attention on the transfer portal has allowed Kelly to get off scot-free instead of facing the music of his recruiting failures.
Combined with three defensive coordinators across six seasons and the uncertainty of the offensive and defensive line coaches, Kelly’s recruiting missteps couldn’t stabilize the Bruins well enough across his tenure to for the UCLA fanbase ever be able to visualize a successful campaign.
Six years after his first season – in which all but three Pac-12 teams alongside UCLA have fired and hired at least one new coach – Kelly is back to square one, now at the bottom of the conference tumbling down the stairs months before a collegiate football landscape-altering move to the Big Ten.
Kelly set his own expectations before his first season in 2018.
“If you want to beat the best, you’ve got to be the best,” he said.
Settling for second-best in Los Angeles isn’t enough, Kelly. It’s time to pack your bags and go.
For the future of UCLA athletics and the football program’s relevance at large, athletic director Martin Jarmond must make a move – the Bruins need a fresh face to don the headset.