The 2022 season represents a pretty crucial juncture in the Chip Kelly tenure at UCLA.

Signed to an extension this offseason, Kelly is coming off his best year in Westwood after the Bruins went 8-4 in 2021 and ripped off three straight—and very impressive—wins to close the season. But that extension was met with some groaning from the outside; Kelly is just 18-25 so far in four years with the Bruins and the 2021 campaign marked the first winning season of the partnership.

After a literal game-changing run with Oregon a decade ago and then an up-and-down experience in the NFL, Kelly returned to the college game in 2018 hoping to recapture some momentum. As he approaches Year 5, some of his peers around the Pac-12 are wondering if that can still happen.

“We’ve all been waiting for Chip to unveil some kind of Version 2.0, some kind of new thing that changes the game as much as they did at Oregon, and maybe that’s not going to happen,” an anonymous coach told Athlon Sports. “Maybe they’re just a good program with a reasonable expectation for wins. But that’s not how they sold it when he got there.”

Getting coaches to open up about their peers to the media is like pulling teeth. No one wants to provide bulletin board material for their opponent. No one wants to land in hot water over something relatively unimportant to their day-to-day. But, if you give coaches the ability to speak anonymously, then you get a chance to peel the curtain back a bit.

Athlon did that, and here’s what some of the league’s coaches had to say on Kelly and UCLA:

“A very hard program to read from the outside. Is everyone involved at the school really committed to being elite in football? You hear stories that they’re always half-in, or they’re not on the same page.”

“The problem with Chip (Kelly) is that everyone does what Chip did to become a famous innovator, at least on the field. But where he really shined, what made him different was all the stuff behind the scenes. Sleep studies and practice structures and when to go light, and how to coach speed. Are they innovating like that?”

“DTR (Dorian Thompson-Robinson) is a hell of a talent. He’s been unfairly maligned at times. But he’s got a hell of a high ceiling. When he’s got a hot hand, they can run with anyone and light it up.”

“A lot of coaches have noticed how UCLA has sat back a lot in recruiting. It’s almost as if Chip brought more of an NFL scouting mentality back to college recruiting, and that just won’t work. They still have holes on their roster, and it’s because they’re not as aggressive as they need to be.”

“They’ve missed the window on making significant steps in L.A. now that USC has hired a new staff.”

That last point is the one that’ll surely be talked about throughout the 2022 season. With Lincoln Riley and Mike Bohn and what appears to be top-down alignment within the university and athletic department, the days of the Trojans floundering as a program might be coming to an end.

Can UCLA strike before Riley gets things fully up and running? The season begins on Sept. 3 against Bowling Green at home.