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Everyone is wondering when, not if, the Titans will hire Chip Kelly

Is that Tennessee’s trump card on the right? (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

It wasn’t the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles parted ways with Chip Kelly that was stunning, but the timing of it. Normally coaches get fired (or, as the team put it, “released“) a few days after the season finale, not before.

Chip Kelly dismissed as Eagles coach with one week left in regular season

Now plenty of folks are wondering about another piece of timing involving Kelly: exactly when the Tennessee Titans scoop him up. It may still be a matter of if that team hires him — or if he wants to go there — but given the fact that Marcus Mariota is plying his trade in Nashville, there is a widespread assumption that the fit makes too much sense not to happen.

Before Mariota was drafted No. 2 overall by the Titans last spring he, of course, was a star at Oregon. And before the quarterback won the Heisman Trophy last year, he played his first full season in 2012 for Kelly, who recruited Mariota to Eugene but left for the Eagles after that season.

Prior to the draft, there had been speculation that Kelly might trade up to get Mariota, but the coach made a point of declaring in March that his Eagles “would never mortgage our future” to acquire that high of a pick. Now, if the Titans want to acquire Kelly’s services, they won’t have to give Philadelphia a thing in exchange.

In the wake of the news Tuesday night that Kelly was no longer a member of the Eagles’ organization, social media was abuzz with talk that it was pretty much a fait accompli he’d end up in Tennessee.

Of course, even if the Titans are interested in bringing Kelly aboard, they’ll likely have competition, not only from some other NFL teams in search of a head coach (the 49ers come to mind), but plenty of college teams. Kelly had some success in Philadelphia, especially in his first two years, but it is at the college level that he really made his reputation as an offensive innovator.

Nevertheless, Tennessee may be holding a trump card. After trying to get the most out of the likes of Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford with the Eagles, could Kelly resist having Mariota run his offense again — and could the Titans, headed for the top of the draft again under interim coach Mike Mularkey, resist trying to reunite the two?

From November: Adam Schefter says Kelly and other Eagles executives ‘are sick of each other’