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CFB: Cal fires Dykes, Kelly rumors begin

After 4 years in charge, Cal make a surprisingly late coaching change, firing Sonny Dykes.  The Chip Kelly rumors began almost immediately.


It had appeared that most of the firing and hiring in the aftermath of the recently completed college football season had been dealt with, but this week has seen some late action on the coaching carousel, beginning with Minnesota hiring P.J. Fleck away from Western Michigan, after parting ways with Tracy Claeys.

Sunday night saw the Cal Golden Bears make a delayed decision to fire their coach of the past four years, Sonny Dykes, who had delivered a 19-30 win-loss record since taking over four years ago in 2013.  The choice for Cal to split from Dykes itself isn’t too surprising in itself.  The team had gone backwards this year after an 8-5 finish in 2015 in which it felt like they slightly underachieved with future number one pick Jared Goff leading the offense, and going 5-7 this season with transfer QB Davis Webb taking over.  While an offensive coach, he still oversaw a team that had a shockingly bad defense in 2016, statistically among the worst in the entire FBS.

In addition, Dykes has also previously antagonized those in charge at the university by looking elsewhere multiple times at other job openings, suggesting that he wasn’t fully committed to his current employers.  Well, he’ll get the chance to look around all he wants now.  Ah, but not much to be found at this late stage, is there?

Who might replace Dykes?

While the choice to change coaches wasn’t a surprise as mentioned, the eyebrows are raised based specifically on the timing, with Cal’s season having finished well over a month ago.  That of course set off the rumors that the reason for that being the recent availability of a certain Chip Kelly, following his own firing from the San Francisco 49ers.  The connection quickly became the popular buzz as everyone from the media to fans alike joined the dots.

There’s some sense to all that too; on the surface, it appears a fairly logical fit.  Kelly is almost surely not going to see another head coaching offer in the NFL for the foreseeable future, nor does he seem like the type to give up overall control and become a coordinator.  Back to college seems inevitable.  Joining the Golden Bears would mean not just a return to college, but to the PAC-12 where he built much of his reputation with the Oregon Ducks.  Location-wise it makes sense, staying nearby on the West Coast, even though he’s shown a willingness to travel as he did to Philadelphia.  In terms of players already in place, the athletes on Cal’s offense can fit his preferred system in many cases.

Don’t be surprised however, if this does not play out that way.  The performances of this Cal defense weighed down the team as a whole like an anchor in 2016.  Though he had better units in the latter stages of his time with Oregon, it might concern those doing the hiring that they cannot guarantee an improvement on defense when hiring Kelly.

The biggest name emerging elsewhere as a leading candidate to replace Sonny Dykes is a very interesting one in Wisconsin Badgers defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, according to Yahoo’s Pat Forde.  This sounds like it would be a home run hire if they did go that way, with Wilcox’s defense one of the elite in the country last season.  Though he’s in Wisconsin, the 40-year-old Wilcox is a West Coast guy, having played at Oregon, and previously a defensive coordinator at both Washington and USC under Steve Sarkisian.  Clemson DC Brent Venables and former LSU head coach Les Miles are also being mentioned.

Thoughts on the Dykes firing?  Who would you like to see replace him?  Discuss in the comments below!

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Rebecca Rennie

RealSport College Football Editor, as well as writer and NFL Draft analyst, while occasionally contributing to the NFL section as well.  A fan of most sports and enjoy discussing with fellow fans, so do please comment on articles and interact.  A big fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and of the Central Florida Knights in college.

CFB: Cal fires Dykes, Kelly rumors begin

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