On the day Oregon announced it had hired its new coach, Chip Kelly said he never would leave a job before the season was over.
Despite regular denials by Kelly over the past month and a half that he was interested in the post, his name was linked to the school’s opening because of his past success there and because of the struggles his 1-11 San Francisco squad is enduring.
“I will not leave a team with three games to go because I got a bigger, better deal. That’s not the way I’m wired and that’s not what I’m going to do,” Kelly said Wednesday, his strongest words on the subject. “I could never look Antoine Bethea or Joe Staley in the eye and talk about commitment … if I took off on them with three games to go.”
Later the normally guarded Kelly said, “That’s one thing I did learn from my dad: I have a commitment. They made a commitment to me. I made a commitment to them. I’m not out searching around and looking for other jobs while I have a job.”
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Just 24 hours earlier, Kelly was in Portland, Maine, for the funeral of Paul Kelly, 87, a former trial attorney known for his sense of humor, his dedication to his family and, in Chip Kelly’s words, “his thirst for knowledge. He was a lifelong learner.”
His father wore a business suit every day to work, Kelly said, and he didn’t want to be buried in one. Instead, he requested he be buried in 49ers gear, and that’s what happened. Paul Kelly was buried in a 49ers-themed sweatsuit.
“My dad’s loyal, now,” Kelly said.
Oregon hired South Florida head coach Willie Taggart, who is part of Jim Harbaugh’s nascent coaching tree. Taggart was an assistant coach for three seasons at Stanford under Harbaugh, who was the best man at Taggart’s wedding.
Harbaugh’s former offensive coordinator, David Shaw, is in his sixth season as head coach at Stanford while his former defensive coordinator at Michigan, D.J. Durkin, is in his first year as Maryland’s head coach.
Kelly, meanwhile, has maintained all along that he is committed to the NFL. He said the only call he made to Oregon after Mark Helfrich was let go by the Ducks last week was to Helfrich, whom Kelly hired at Oregon in 2009.
Helfrich reportedly told Kelly to pursue the Oregon opening if he wanted; Kelly said that he wasn’t interested, and on Wednesday said he never was offered the position.
“Everybody knows if you want to contact me there is no contact,” he said. “I’m not talking to anybody about any other job. I have a job.”
Kelly said he had a phone call from Maine on Monday with his assistant coaches in which they decided, among other things, to continue with Colin Kaepernick as their starting quarterback this week. Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neal ran Tuesday’s session.
Kelly said his father’s death was the first time he lost a close family member. On Saturday, he spoke with receivers Torrey Smith and Jeremy Kerley, both of whom have lost brothers.
“It’s something that affects all of us. I don’t think you can ever be prepared for it,” Kelly said. “ … I think the way you honor them is to move on. You can think about the good times and gain strength from it.”