Chip Kelly had said he hoped to keep his entire inaugural coaching staff intact going into the 2014 season.
So far, he’s already lost two.
Assistant defensive line coach Erik Chinander became the latest to fly the coop. He returned to Oregon to coach outside linebackers under coach Mark Helfrich, who was named head coach around this time last year after Kelly left Oregon to coach the Eagles.
“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and am excited to return to a program with a successful history and potential for further greatness as the University of Oregon,” Chinander said. “I’m anxious to contribute to the momentum that Coach Helfrich has provided in his short time as head coach and am looking forward to working with a defensive staff that is among the best in the country.”
Chinander became the team’s second assistant to leave, following quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor, who last week accepted the Miami Dolphins’ offer to be offensive coordinator. Neither has been replaced yet, although a team source said Chinander’s spot would be filled by defensive quality control assistant Mike Dawson.
Dawson, who had spent his three prior years coaching special teams for Boston College, was mostly in charge of game plans for the defense. In his new position, Dawson’s job will involve more coaching and hands-on teaching.
Dawson also spent six seasons (2000-2005) as an assistant coach at New Hampshire, where Kelly was offensive coordinator and then head coach.
Chinander, a former walk-on offensive lineman at Iowa, was one of several Oregon coaches who left the school last year to join Kelly’s staff in Philadelphia and he assisted with defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro as the staff transitioned the Eagles from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 front.
Chinander had coached three seasons under Kelly at Oregon as an intern and graduate assistant, with special emphasis on the “drop end” position. Several linemen credited Chinander throughout the season for their development in the new scheme.
“Erik is a proven coach and recruiter who also offers an injection of youth and enthusiasm into our defense,” Helfrich said. “He brings with him a familiarity of what we want to do yet his experience at a number of different levels will provide us with a fresh perspective.”
No candidates have emerged publicly to fill Lazor’s position, but Kelly and his staff are in Mobile, Ala., this week for the Senior Bowl and it’s likely that Kelly is talking with several candidates there. Lazor didn’t have an assistant in his one year with the Eagles, so the team has no logical in-house candidate to promote.