SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Chip Kelly's bubble is comfortable, thank you very much. He likes it here. Practice, video, maybe a break for lunch. Go over game-plan details one more time. Maybe 10 more times.
This is the life of a football-obsessive, the one that big-time college coaches create for themselves, and that's all fine. Good gig if you can get it.
"I do not know what the future holds," he says. "I do know we have a football game and I'm going to be there."
Sure enough, but when he's done coaching Oregon against Kansas State in tonight's Fiesta Bowl, that bubble will pop, for good.
Including the Chiefs, seven NFL teams are looking for head coaches right now, and there isn't a more captivating candidate at any level than Kelly.
What's more, the context of football's two highest levels has never been more favorable for a successful jump from college to the pros. Kelly is an innovative offensive mind with a proven record of success, a brilliant tactician who'd make a splashy hire for a team in need of an injection of excitement and new ways of scoring points.
Can you think of any NFL team like that?
The first thing to do is to take any preconceived notions you might have about college coaches struggling in the NFL and throw them in the trash. They are outdated and can be dangerous, sort of like an old car with no seat belts.
"You hear people ask if his stuff would work in the NFL," says one NFC personnel man. "Well, it's working now. Look at the Patriots. It used to be that colleges stole from the NFL, but it's the other way around now. Our league would have to adjust to him as much as he'd adjust to us."
The Patriots lead the NFL in yards and points, running a speed spread offense that's at worst a cousin of Kelly's Quack Attack. Look at what Washington is doing with Robert Griffin III. Or the Seahawks with Russell Wilson. These are college offenses ripping apart NFL defenses. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick is running some formations and backed by many of the same philosophies that made him a star at Nevada.
That's because Greg Roman, then the offensive coordinator at Stanford, went to Nevada a few offseasons ago to ask questions of then-Nevada coach Chris Ault.
When Roman went to the 49ers along with his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, they didn't have to adjust their offense nearly as much as men who'd made the jump in the previous generation.
Harbaugh is one of three current NFL coaches who jumped directly from college, and each is having success. The 49ers went 6-10 the year before he arrived, and 24-7-1 since. The Seahawks went 9-23 in the two years before Pete Carroll, and 11-5 this year. Tampa Bay improved by three wins in Greg Schiano's first season.
Perhaps most tellingly, all three teams saw dramatic improvement offensively. The Buccaneers jumped more than 100 points from last year. The 49ers finished third in yards per play this year, the Seahawks seventh.
Kelly would come to the NFL needing to prove himself. He has been a head coach for only four seasons now, and besides, the adjustment to pro football is about more than just strategy. Players make more money than the coaches, and there are rules restricting the amount of contact in practice.
But Kelly has never particularly enjoyed the schmoozing requirement of college coaching, and the bachelor in him would eat up endless time watching video and working out game plans.
Two NFL minds said the biggest obstacle facing the team that hires Kelly might be getting millionaires to buy into a man who was an assistant at New Hampshire just six years ago, but allowed that every coach likely to land a job in the current hiring cycle will have to earn respect. Andy Reid — reportedly interviewed by the Chiefs on Wednesday - just went 4-12 and got fired, for instance.
Of course, there's also a growing portion of the football world that thinks an NFL team would be more likely to worry about keeping Kelly than firing him.
The final hours of Kelly's bubble are running out, but there is still time to brush off direct questions about the NFL. He says he's only thinking about K-State, that the NFL isn't a distraction and, if he's in the right mood, jokes that the call he's waiting on is an offer from a reporter.
"I will listen and I am excited if you do want to give me a call," he says.
Kelly will wake up in a different world on Friday. There will be no more upcoming games to reference, and the man who last year nearly took the Tampa Bay job will have more opportunities to peruse.
There is a definite feeling around the Oregon program that Kelly is on the way out. Mike Bellotti, Kelly's old boss at Oregon and now an analyst for ESPN, said it was "inevitable" that Kelly will one day coach in the NFL.
The Eagles and Browns are said to be interested, and really, the five other teams with vacancies would be silly not to at least make a phone call to a man known for innovation.
That includes the Chiefs. They could do much worse.