If coach Chip Kelly is feeling the pressure as the losses pile up at UCLA, he does a good job remaining calm about it.
It doesn’t matter Kelly is trying to navigate the UCLA football team through the coronavirus pandemic and a shortened seven-game Pac-12 only schedule – this is his third year with the Bruins and fans are waiting for results.
When UCLA inked Kelly to a five-year contract worth $23.3 million prior to the 2018 season, the Bruins were hoping to get the Kelly that went 46-7 in his four years as the head coach at Oregon (2009-12), which included playing in a BCS championship game and finishing his last two years with a Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl title.
What they were hoping they didn’t get was the Kelly who went on to the NFL and struggled in his last two seasons. Although Kelly went 10-6 in each of his first two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, he was fired after the Eagles finished 6-9 in 2015. He moved on to the San Francisco 49ers and coached just one season in 2016, bottoming out with a 2-14 record.
Kelly and UCLA hoped a return to college football would bring back his college glory days, but UCLA has gone 7-18 during his first two years in Westwood. What many figured was the most winnable game on their 2020 Pac-12 schedule, opening in Colorado on Saturday, ended with a 48-42 loss.
Kelly repeated a phrase this week that he has repeated often, which is about staying committed to the process and not the outcome.
So naturally, he was asked during a conference call Wednesday about the process, asking if that means he is not being paid to win games at UCLA.
Kelly, for his part, answered about as best he could as the Bruins (0-1) get prepared for Saturday’s home opener at the Rose Bowl against Utah (0-0) at 7:30 p.m.
“I didn’t say that at all,” Kelly countered when asked if he was paid to win games at UCLA. “I said our whole process is about the process.
“If you study people that are successful, people that focus on the outcome get distracted. When they focus on the process, and what I mean by the process is how do we improve on a daily basis. How do we improve on a Wednesday, and what do we do on Wednesday, so we’re not thinking about the game on Saturday, we’re thinking about Wednesday, that’s what we mean about the process.”
If UCLA doesn’t start winning soon, when do you question the process?
“I think we always question the process,” Kelly said. “Every single day, we’re trying to tweak how we do things and what is the best way to do things, and that’s what the focus is on: The focus is on the process.”
If you were wondering whether Kelly is expecting any changes following the season, it didn’t help that there were reports Tuesday that he sold his Encino mansion for $7.6 million to none other than Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts, who just won a World Series in his first year in L.A. after being traded from Boston.
Any reaction to that report, Coach?
“No reaction,” Kelly shot back.
UCLA EXPECTING TO PLAY SATURDAY
After Utah was forced to cancel its season opener last weekend against Arizona due to multiple coronavirus cases among players and some staff, there were concerns whether the Utes would have enough players to meet the 53-player scholarship limit to face UCLA this weekend.
Already the game was moved from Friday to Saturday to give the Utes an extra day, and there have been no reports from Utah indicating that the situation has grown worse. At least that’s what UCLA and Kelly are hearing.
“I was told on Sunday that we’re playing Saturday night at 7:30 and that’s what we’re preparing for,” Kelly said. “I haven’t heard anything else from our administration for us to not prepare for it, so we’re going forward. I couldn’t tell you how many cases, or what the whole situation is in Utah, that’s never been discussed here. Are we playing? Yes, so we’re in preparation mode for a game on Saturday.”
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham indicated Monday that two position groups were decimated due to the coronavirus fallout, indicating that some scout team players and even walk-ons could suit up Saturday.
Kelly isn’t so sure.
“When you get into the minutiae of that, there are other things that (indicate) they don’t have as many people out that has been reported, so I don’t think you can believe either report,” Kelly said. “They provided a depth chart and it’s the same one they provided for the Arizona game.”
Either way, preparing for the Utes is a challenge.
“They have no tape this year, it’s not like you can watch this year’s game and say these are the guys that are playing,” Kelly said. “You go off of all last year’s film when you break them down because it would be the same thing as playing an opponent who hasn’t played a game yet. The breakdowns are based upon what they’ve done last year.
“The fortunate thing for us is that the staff has been in place for a little bit of time. Kyle has been there a long time and what he does on defense is what they do on defense and they’re really well coached.”
Whittingham also was asked earlier this week who has the advantage, a team that played or is playing their first game.
“There are arguments on both sides,” Whittingham said. “The old adage is you make your most improvement between game one and game two, so you have that on their side. For us, we have a game tape to watch and study now and they have nothing on us this year. So who knows? There is an advantage both ways depending how you look at it.”