By all accounts, Oregon football coach Chip Kelly will announce
this morning some sort of plan that creates enough wiggle room for him to back off his once set-in-stone decision
to not let senior running back LeGarrette Blount play this season after Blount lost his mind
for a few minutes on national TV following the Ducks' opening-game loss to Boise State.
Good. The original decision was a hasty one made by a rookie coach caught in a media free-fire in part because the game was played on national TV on a Thursday night. With the rest of major college football not kicking off until Saturday, that left all of Friday for sports talk shows and columnists to turn up the pressure on Kelly and Oregon to cut its ties to Blount.
As to what Kelly's upcoming decision means for the rest of the resurgent Ducks, it's questionable.
First a pause for the obligatory full disclosure moment: I'm a Ducks season-ticket holder who totally recognizes that this passion for football is one of the childish things I have not put away.
That said, here's why Kelly's newest move is the right one — albeit one that's late, makes him looks silly and actually may not be in the best interests of Oregon's season.
College football should never be anybody's first stop in a search for role models. Oregon has recruited players like Rodney Woods and Richie Incognito, two players that had criminal records
. And Oregon is hardly alone in tolerating players
with much more serious problems than Blount showed in Boise. He has had problems
before, but for Blount
to have gotten bounced after Boise was wrong.
Many people will say Kelly's decision today is driven by a win-at-all costs mentality. No doubt. But if that's the case, Blount's return to play in a game is not a certain path to a big season.
It will actually be an instance where the hoariest of sports cliches — the dreaded "distraction" — comes into play. The Ducks have gone on a mini-roll without Blount, capped by their stunning blowout of Cal last Saturday. And the game Blount returns will be the ultimate media feeding frenzy when players will be asked at every turn off the field about Blount (FWIW, my guess is Blount comes back no sooner than November. Kelly wouldn't bring him back for the Oct. 24 game in UW - too crazy to freight a rivalry game on the road with that madness; nor the USC game Oct. 31 - again too crazy to add that distraction to what's already shaping up as a high-profile game; the best bet is either Nov. 7 against Stanford - a road game that will probably be played in a half-filled stadium; or Nov. 14 against ASU).
On the field, while Blount would have fresh legs and restore depth at running back (especially since Kenyon Barner is now under consideration to return to defense with the season-ending injury to cornerback Walter Thurmond III), there's no guarantee he'd do much. He won't be in game shape, his actual game against Boise State was horrific and he had a disturbing tendency last year to come up small in big regular-season games against Cal and USC.
As for Kelly, today's 11 am press conference in Eugene —carried live by TV and radio— will be fascinating. He's in an impossible spot in which he must either say he was wrong when he ruled Blount wouldn't play again this year, or that he's been lying all along because he's had some secret plan to restore Blount if he met certain conditions. The fact that Blount didn't immediately blow outta Eugene to play in Canada as a stab at restoring his viability for the 2010 NFL draft indicates there probably was some sorta wink-wink "shot at redemption on the field held out as a carrot. But for Kelly's sake, I sure hope he just comes out and says he was wrong.
For those who need reminding what started all this
And for those who need reminding of Blount at his best: