Column: Chip Kelly shouldn’t get to keep his job because UCLA beat a terrible USC team

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly, left, congratulates UCLA running back Kazmeir Allen after his first quarter touchdown.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly, left, congratulates Kazmeir Allen after the running back made a touchdown catch against USC in the first half of a 62-33 win Saturday.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

First, from UCLA, a hurrah.

We just blew away USC at the Coliseum!

Then, from UCLA, a hush.

Wait, does this mean Chip Kelly keeps his job?


He shouldn’t. He almost certainly will, but he shouldn’t, many Bruins fans beset with mixed emotions know he shouldn’t, and UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond need look no further than the other side of the field during the Bruins’ 62-33 victory over the Trojans on Saturday to realize the bigger picture.

USC is terrible. USC is a mess. USC is completely lost in a season that was completely avoidable, if only athletic director Mike Bohn fired Clay Helton when he should have fired him last December.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson wants to leave a lasting legacy in Westwood, and he did just that, accounting for six touchdowns in UCLA’s 62-33 win over USC.

Nov. 20, 2021

By allowing Helton to start this season before the terrible loss to Stanford justifiably forced his hand, Bohn watched his lack of decisiveness result in an overwhelmed interim coach, a horribly makeshift autumn, and arguably the worst USC team in 30 years.

It wasn’t fair to the players. It wasn’t fair to the fans. It wasn’t fair to the tradition. There should have been a new coach in place late last year, not next month.

Does UCLA want to keep Kelly a year too long and wind up looking like USC?

Does UCLA want to keep those Rose Bowl seats empty like many of the Coliseum seats were empty Saturday, no buzz, no sustained cheers, no hope?

Does UCLA want to put its players in the position of the USC players on Saturday, running around in dazed confusion caused by spending a season in chaotic limbo?

Is UCLA sure it isn’t heading down the same path as USC in keeping a coach it might fire within a year anyway? Does UCLA really think Kelly is the long-term solution, or are the Bruins just keeping him for another year so they can get past the Jan. 15 date when they would owe him a $9-million buyout?

If Jarmond doesn’t think Kelly is the ultimate answer, then he must ask himself the question — is he willing to risk the program disappearing into a similar USC sinkhole if Kelly stays?


When asked whether he thought this win saved his job, Kelly said simply, “I don’t know… I’m not in charge of that.”

When asked whether he took any personal satisfaction from this win, Kelly said, “I always take personal satisfaction in every win… you look at the enthusiasm and the energy and juice this team has, they are a lot of fun to be around.”

The bet is, UCLA officials had so much fun Saturday that they’re going to make sure Kelly sticks around. The prediction is, the one year remaining on Kelly’s contract will be extended in the next several weeks.

UCLA football coach Chip Kelly has failed to prove he is capable of matching athletic director Martin Jarmond’s elite expectations for the Bruins.

Oct. 31, 2021

He will be rewarded for production that the results simply don’t support.

Yes, Kelly just won the most important game of the year, and his team is 7-4 and going bowling.

But after four years, he is still 17-25 with — and this an amazing stat — only two of those 17 wins coming against teams that ended the year with winning records.

Yes, his team played well earlier this season such that this columnist erected and drove the Bruins bandwagon.

But in UCLA’s three biggest games against winning Pac-12 foes, Arizona State, Oregon and Utah won all three and outscored the Bruins 120-78.

This season was supposed to be Kelly’s best chance at redemption, as the Bruins returned 20 starters, a defense full of seniors, and a roster tested and mature with 16 graduate students. Yet, once again, no playoff contention, no conference title contention, and no Rose Bowl for the 22nd consecutive year.

Does Jarmond think next year is going to be any better considering Kelly is going to have to rebuild again? And he certainly must know that while Kelly is still coach, next year won’t particularly excite Bruins fans especially considering the identity of their first three visitors.

Bowling Green, Alabama State and South Alabama come to the Rose Bowl on three consecutive Saturdays in September. That is not a misprint. If Kelly is still the coach, here’s guessing the combined attendance of all three games won’t equal one sellout.

While it would certainly feel odd to consider parting ways with a UCLA football coach after he beat USC, there’s never quite been a pushover Trojans team like this one. USC seemingly missed every big tackle, blew every big assignment, dropped many big passes from rookie starting quarterback Jaxson Dart, and allowed a rivalry-record 62 points and 609 yards.

Freshman Jaxson Dart struggled to make a big impact in his first collegiate start, throwing two interceptions in USC’s 62-33 loss to UCLA.

Nov. 20, 2021

And while it might feel weird to contemplate firing a coach who is going to a bowl game… wait, that’s exactly what happened to Jim Mora in 2017, when he was fired after a loss to USC and before the Bruins played in the Cactus Bowl.

Mora was 46-30 at the time, a far better record than Kelly. Mora had lost 19 of his last 36 games, but even that’s a better stretch than anything Kelly has produced. Mora was owed $12.36 million, more than Kelly’s buyout.

Ironically, Mora was fired so suddenly because the Bruins were blindly rushing to hire Kelly.

Four years later, speeding toward a cliff on a 62-point joyride, they remain blindly insistent on keeping him.