Chip Kelly indicated Wednesday he has no intention on leaving the 49ers to return to Oregon, which on Tuesday night fired Mark Helfrich, Kelly’s successor there.
Asked if Oregon reached out to him, Kelly responded: “Nope, nope, nope. The only person I’ve talked to is Helf.”
Kelly said he stood by his comments earlier this month when first asked about a possible Oregon return.
“My goal is to be the head coach of the 49ers and that’s where I want to be,” Kelly said Nov. 7. “I’m not looking to go back and that’s what I’ve always said.”
Kelly spoke by phone with Helfrich on Wednesday morning from Orlando, where the 49ers are practicing this week ahead of Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears.
“Let’s talk about the Bears,” Kelly added. “I have not talked to anybody at Oregon except for Mark Helfrich.”
Kelly shook his head from side to side and said “no” on a possible retreat to Oregon, where he first served as an offensive coordinator before leading the Ducks from 2009-12. Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 after compiling a 46-7 record as Oregon’s coach, including a two Rose Bowl appearances and a loss in the 2010 season’s BCS Championship Game.
Since winning his 49ers debut, Kelly has presided over a team that set a franchise record Sunday in Miami with its 10th consecutive loss.
Helfrich’s tenure ran its course after the Ducks went 4-8, their worst record in 25 years.
“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person.
“I just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s one of the unfortunate things that goes on in this profession. We all know it when we sign up for it. When it happens, you’re still taken aback.”
Kelly himself got fired 11 months ago, ending his Eagles tenure before their season finale. The 49ers hired him a month later to replace Jim Tomsula.
“Chip’s obviously had good success, both at the collegiate level and really in my opinion in both his pro stops,” Bears coach John Fox said on a conference call with Bay Area media. “I do know Chip and have great respect for him. He’s a good ball coach. He works hard at it.”
Fox praised the 49ers’ fourth-ranked rushing attack and their improved production with Colin Kaepernick leading Kelly’s offense.
“He’s got up-tempo thing that a lot is made of,” Fox said, “but people have been doing that in the league a long time. It’s not new to NFL.”
It was new in 2013 to Matt Barkley, a former USC quarterback that Kelly drafted onto the Eagles. Barkley, who appeared in three games as a rookie and played one snap in 2014, will start Sunday’s game for the Bears, in place of the injured Jay Cutler (shoulder).
Although some former Eagles criticized Kelly’s communication skills and coaching nuances upon his exit, Barkley did not when asked Wednesday about Kelly’s style.
“I didn’t really have the same experiences that I heard some guys talking about,” Barkley said. “… The offense we ran was a little different. The way he runs ship is a little closer to what a college program would run, in terms of daily scheduling and what the guys would do, and that may have thrown guys off a little bit. I felt guys were bought in in Philly, for the most part.”
If Kelly had bolted for Oregon (or elsewhere), he wouldn’t be the first coach in at least the last decade to leave before finishing out his first season. Bobby Petrino resigned when the Atlanta Falcons were 3-10 to return to the college ranks at Arkansas.