Ian Rapoport of NFL.com created something of a stir this morning when he reported that Chip Kelly and Sean Payton are “among those who will be considered” for the head coaching vacancy at the University of Southern California (link via NFL.com’s Kevin Patra). Of course, just because USC is interested in a particular head coach does not mean that the interest is mutual; indeed, the University of Maryland is expected to make a run at Kelly, but no one actually expects Kelly to be on the Terrapins’ sideline next year. Plus, even if there is mutual interest, there are a whole host of contractual and other obstacles that both parties would need to clear.
Nonetheless, given recent reports that Payton would listen to other suitors, and given the Eagles’ struggles in 2015 under Kelly’s watch–not to mention Kelly’s excellent track record at the college level–the rumors connecting both high-profile coaches to one of the most prestigious college football programs are inevitable. As Rapoport points out, Payton’s daughter attends college at Pepperdine University, roughly 30 minutes away from USC, and Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune concedes (via Twitter) that if Payton is ready to move on from the Saints, USC makes a great deal of sense for him. Furthermore, a move to college would not require that compensation be paid to the Saints, whereas New Orleans would be in line for compensation if Payton were to move to another NFL club.
A source close to Kelly, meanwhile, says that the Eagles’ head coach “really likes to be liked and wanted,” which may explain at least some of his reported interest in the USC job. After all, as ESPN’s Adam Caplan tweets, Kelly recently purchased a home in the Philadelphia area, and while that may not be overly significant in and of itself, Caplan opines in a separate tweet that Kelly is not thinking of anything but coaching the Eagles for the next several seasons. Les Bowen of The Philadelphia Daily News concurs in a series of his own tweets, in which he takes a not-so-subtle dig at the reports connecting Kelly to the USC position.
John Harbaugh has recently been mentioned as a candidate for the USC job as well, but he predictably and definitively shot down those reports. Moving forward, though, expect plenty of rumors connecting NFL head coaches to USC, and because of his apparent openness to a new opportunity, expect even more rumors about Payton.