Chip Kelly's love for Oregon made for tough call

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Chip Kelly's love for Oregon made for tough call

Chip Kelly either changed his mind or never made his mind up in the first place.

In his introductory press conference as the Eagles new head coach Thursday at the NovaCare Complex, Kelly portrayed the hours and days that followed his initial decision to remain at Oregon as a tug of war between his NFL coaching ambition and his commitment to Ducks' players and recruits.

I knew obviously I thought that this was the best spot, Kelly said. But theres so much more that goes into it, and I think thats what people have to realize. If Im leaving, what happens when I leave? Whos going to become the next head coach? What happens to those players? Youre not just making reservations for dinner, youre changing not only your life but a lot of other peoples lives.

Leaving Oregon for the NFL wasnt the kind of decision that Kelly planned to make LeBron James-style, in the blinding glow of the national spotlight and accompanied by surreal pomp and circumstance.

The popularity of social media and buzz that typically surrounds one of college footballs most high-profile coaches and one of the NFLs biggest-market franchises had turned the Jan. 5 interview in Scottsdale, Ariz., into a global attraction.

Kelly feared that any hasty public decision would threaten to destroy the relationships he had built back in Eugene, Ore.

First off, it was a very difficult decision for me, he said. It was more my timetable than anyone elses timetable. Im sure Jeffrey Lurie obviously wouldve given me a little more time to think about it, and I actually would. Im not stringing anybody along.

This thing was a very public thing and Im not a very public guy, so part of that was a very interesting thing. I made my decision and was comfortable in terms of it because of what Im going back to. If the worse thing in my life was that I was going to be the head coach of the University of Oregon, I think a lot of people would trade places with me because its a really, really special place.

Kelly spoke candidly and passionately during the press conference about the institution that he left behind Wednesday, when he agreed to become the 21st coach in Eagles history, and the program he built into a national powerhouse reputed for its uniquely up-tempo pace of action.

He emphasized the significance of the time outside of the spotlight in the days after Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens had announced Kellys initial decision to return in helping to peacefully change his mind about the Eagles job, but his story also left some blanks that might never be filled.

Kelly said his first no-thanks to the Eagles was truly binding at the time but downplayed his curious decision to let Mullens notify the media instead of appearing himself at the press conference.

When pressed for further explanation, the offensive mastermind took a defensive posture.

Because I wasnt doing anything, he said. I dont like this, to be honest with you. Too many people want to hear themselves talk. I decided that I was staying at the job I had, so I mean, if you go to work tomorrow are you going to make an announcement that youve decided youre going to work tomorrow? Thats kind of how I approached it, that theres nothing to say.

Kelly insisted that an ongoing NCAA investigation against the Ducks from potential violations incurred during his time there and the sanctions that might ensue didnt influence his decision to leave.

Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks coach, similarly denied three years ago that NCAA sanctions propelled his exit from Southern California, which in June of 2010 was hit with four years of probation that included a two-year bowl ban.

We fully cooperated with the NCAA and will continue to fully cooperate with them, Kelly said That had no factor into my decision.

One point Kelly made clear was that he wouldnt follow in the footsteps of Bobby Petrino or Nick Saban, two high-profile coaches who at different times bolted from their college jobs for the NFL only to return to college well before their contracts were up.

Saban, who just won his fourth national title, third with Alabama, fled for the Crimson Tide after compiling a 15-17 record for the Miami Dolphins, who had lured him away from LSU.

Petrino didnt even last one full season with the Atlanta Falcons, who signed him away from Louisville in 2007. He went 3-10 and then left in the middle of the night for Arkansas, a ship jump that burned bridges in Atlanta and NFL circles.

Im all in, Kelly said before providing a historical analogy. I think it was Spanish conqueror Cortez who burned the boats. Ive burned the boats, so Im not going back. Im in. Im an NFL coach and this is where I want to be. If there was any indecision in terms of not wanting to be in, I wouldnt have made the jump. I made the jump and Im here and Im excited to be here.

Kelly had met with Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski for nine hours at the Four Seasons, just one day after the Ducks had trampled Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.

The following day, Kelly returned to Eugene, and the Eagles search committee, which had already met with Falcons assistants Mike Nolan and Keith Armstrong, boarded a flight to Denver for an interview with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Kelly had also met with the Browns and Bills before sitting down with the Eagles but Lurie left the desert feeling confident that no NFL team other than the Eagles were in the running and that Kelly sincerely would decide between the Eagles and Ducks.

Even after they had heard back from Kelly, who informed them hed be returning for a fifth season as Oregons head coach, Lurie never crossed Kellys name off his list.

There is a human side of Chip that is very appealing, Lurie said. He does feel a very strong connection to players and Phil Knight at Oregon and the staff there. That to me was a positive.

When he went to Oregon it took him a week to leave New Hampshire to go to Oregon because he needed time. It was an impressive move to go to UNH to Oregon but even then he took a week to decide. So we never took no as a full no because we knew he was torn, and we knew there was no competition for Chip. It was just did he want to stay or did he want to come to us.

Even before the search team had boarded Luries private jet for Phoenix, a report had surfaced Friday night that Kelly and the Browns were closing in on a deal. Kelly dismissed the report as nothing more than politicking that came from someone outside of his camp.

I dont know if its a shock to you, but sometimes things that are printed arent always true, he said. I said my whole approach was that like a high school recruit. I was going to take my three official visits and then make a determination on what the best spot for me was, and that was always my plan.

I was always going to visit with all three teams that expressed interest in talking to me. I said I would always sit down, and when I did listen it was evident to me that I was either going to go to Philadelphia or stay in Oregon.

Only a few days passed before the Eagles had heard from someone close to Kelly that the coach had second thoughts about staying at Oregon and still had interest in coaching the Eagles.

The Eagles had targeted Kelly as their top choice early in the search and put him back atop their checklist when he re-entered the picture, even though he had already spurned them once.

Kelly had told them he just needed time to make sure the Ducks were in good hands going forward and the right forum to inform his players of his decision to leave. The five-year deal was finalized Wednesday morning, only after Kelly had spoken to his team around 8:15 a.m. in Eugene.

Until he told his players, I dont think we couldve ever known for sure, Lurie said. I think I was waiting for him to tell his players. He felt that was the most important thing that he was going to be the one to tell his players and not hear about it from the media. He didnt like the way some other situations had occurred in football and in college. Thats what happened.

Before he opened his arms to an NFL career, Kelly endured a tearful goodbye to the players and coaches who helped him build Oregon into a Pac-12 juggernaut and nationally renowned program.

For me, it was just very, very difficult to say goodbye to a bunch of men that I truly love and respect, he said. The way our players handled it when I talked to them the other day was nothing short of amazing to me. I probably cried more than they did, but they just wanted the best for me just like what I wanted for them.

I knew this was the place for me. It was just trying to figure out a way to do it the right way and I wanted to be the first to tell my players. I think a lot of guys want to know how this came out of left field, but again, I want to tell you how impressed I was with both Howie Roseman and Jeffrey that they allowed me to do this in a manner where my players were going to find out from me first-hand and it wasnt going to be something that they saw on a Twitter account or saw on a local TV station. That part is extremely important to me.

E-mail Geoff Mosher at gmosher@comcastsportsnet.com.

MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

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MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor started serving his suspension Friday for punching Toronto's Jose Bautista after the penalty was reduced from eight to seven games.

Odor was out of the lineup for the series opener against Pittsburgh. He will be eligible to return June 4 when Texas is home against Seattle.

Bautista was suspended one game, and he was serving that Friday, when the penalty was upheld a day after his appeal was heard.

The Rangers promoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar from Triple-A Round Rock, and he was in the lineup against the Pirates as the leadoff hitter playing second base. Odor had been leading off.

Odor's penalty was cut by Major League Baseball special assistant John McHale Jr. The appeal over Odor's role in a May 15 brawl between the Rangers and Blue Jays was heard Tuesday. The league disciplined 14 players and staff over the melee in Arlington (see full story).

Red Sox: Struggling RHP Clay Buchholz to bullpen
TORONTO -- Struggling Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is being moved to the bullpen and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will take Buchholz's spot in the rotation, starting Tuesday at Baltimore.

Buchholz is 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA in 10 starts and has allowed five earned runs or more six times. He gave up season-highs of six runs and three home runs in Thursday's 8-2 loss to Colorado.

Rodriguez (right knee) is on the 15-day DL has not pitched for the Red Sox this season. He's 0-3 with a 3.54 ERA in five rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie in 2015.

Buchholz has made two career relief appearances, one in his rookie season in 2007 and another in 2008.

Manager John Farrell said Buchholz will make multi-inning appearances in order to remain stretched out and could return to the rotation later in the season.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance

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NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It's the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it's his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

"We needed LeBron to set the tone for us early and I thought he did that," coach Tyronn Lue said.

James will be the eighth player in NBA history to appear in six consecutive finals and the first who didn't play for the Boston Celtics.

"He's just a great player," Lue said. "He's a proven winner. He's always won over the course of his career. To go to six straight finals is unbelievable."

James got there by taking down a Toronto team that set a franchise record with 56 wins and reached the conference finals for the first time in 21 seasons.

After a second-quarter dunk, James shared some verbal barbs with rapper Drake, the Raptors' global ambassador and the man who popularized the nickname `6ix' for Toronto.

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith added 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday's Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland's 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

"This city has been craving a championship," Lue said. "We have the right team and we have the right talent."

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered "Let's go, Raptors! Let's go, Raptors!" throughout most of the final three minutes.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said reaching the conference finals was "a tremendous learning experience" for his young team, one that's "a step ahead" in its process of becoming a championship contender.

"We're learning," Casey said. "We're not where (the Cavaliers) are right now. We're going to be."

A dejected Lowry said it was hard to see the positive side of Toronto's best season ever.

"Of course you're going to look back at some point but right now I'm disappointed," he said. "Simple as that, I'm disappointed."

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland's nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. ... Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.

NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at 3 years

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NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at 3 years

NEW YORK -- A person familiar with the negotiations says the New York Jets made a three-year offer to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in March that includes $12 million guaranteed in the first year.

That offer has remained on the table for Fitzpatrick, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is commenting publicly on the negotiations.

The New York Post first reported the terms of the offer Friday.

Fitzpatrick and the Jets have been locked in a contract stalemate. The 33-year-old quarterback is a free agent and coming off a season in which he threw a Jets-record 31 touchdown passes and led New York within a victory of the playoffs.

Both the Jets and Fitzpatrick have said they would like a reunion, but have unable to agree on a deal.

Bears: First-round pick Leonard Floyd agrees to deal
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears and first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd have agreed to a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year.

The Bears drafted the outside linebacker from Georgia with the ninth pick after trading up two spots in a deal with Tampa Bay. Chicago hopes he will add some athleticism to a team trying to build on a 6-10 season. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Floyd led the Bulldogs in sacks for the third straight year with 4 , and tied for the team lead with 10 1/2 tackles for loss last season.

With the announcement Friday, the Bears have agreed to contracts with eight of their nine picks. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard, a third-rounder, is the exception.

NFL: Navy's Reynolds, Carter can defer military service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Keenan Reynolds will get his chance to play in the NFL this season.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Friday that the record-setting Navy quarterback Reynolds and fullback Chris Swain can defer their military service to play in the NFL.

Carter made the announcement during his graduation speech to the academy in Annapolis. As students cheered the news about their graduating classmates, Carter said: "Go get 'em."

Reynolds was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. He is the NCAA's career leader in touchdowns with 88. He had 31 touchdown passes while leading Navy's triple-option offense. The Ravens plan to use him as a running back, receiver and kick returner.

Swain has signed with the San Diego Chargers (see full story).

Redskins: Activists criticize poll on team name
WASHINGTON -- Native American leaders and activists have criticized a recent US national poll that found nine of 10 Native Americans aren't offended by the Washington Redskins' name.

On a conference call held Friday by the National Congress of American Indians and "Change the Mascot" campaign, panelists voiced opposition to a Washington Post poll that surveyed 504 Native Americans, 90 percent of whom said the name doesn't bother them.

James Fenelon, a California State San Bernardino sociology professor, called the poll "immoral," adding it was not representative of Native American communities. Amanda Blackhorse, lead plaintiff in the trademark case against the Redskins, said the "misguided" poll will not affect attempts to change the name.

National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata said: "This issue is not about polling. This issue is about human rights."

D.C. council member David Grosso said he hadn't been swayed and that the government would not support the team moving back into the District unless the name was changed.

The team currently plays its home games in Maryland, with its headquarters and training facility in Virginia.