Mullens received word on Kelly's decision to take the Eagles' job at 7:15 Wednesday morning and suspected as soon as he saw the phone number on his caller ID what the call was pertaining.
"It is what it is. We're here moving forward. I'm not going to worry about what happened. He made a decision that was best for him. We wish him well. He's been great for Oregon football and we're moving on," Mullens said.
Despite the suspicion, Mullens and Kelly had not discussed the Eagles' coaching vacancy since Kelly called him to communicate his intentions of remaining the Ducks coach early last week.
"That was the first I'd heard of anything of Philly since the last time we'd talked about him staying," he said. "When he had called me the Sunday after the Fiesta Bowl, I did think that was it. He had been very thorough in his exploration and he explained to me that he had been very thorough and had arrived at his decision. I thought that was the end of it."
What might've changed Kelly's mind in the last ten days is uncertain, but Mullens speculates that as fans and media members alike know, Kelly has always desired the challenge of coaching at football's highest level.
"He relayed to me that he's thought long and hard the last ten days and in fact it was a challenge he always wanted to take, and that he wasn't sure that opportunity would present itself again. So he felt this was the right one at the right time," he said.
With Kelly gone, the department has turned to filling the position Kelly left behind, a void that Mullens said they'd already "geared up the process" of completing when Kelly was suspected of taking a professional job two weeks ago.
"We've restarted our search and we're full speed ahead to find the right fit for Oregon football. We'll move as expeditiously as possible. But we do not have a specific timeline as to when we'll be complete," he said.
Reports have surfaced that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich would be Kelly's successor, but according to Mullens, a national coaching search will take place, with multiple candidates interviewed and considered.
"We have a number of internal candidates. We've had a staff that's been highly successful for a long period of time. We've got several coaches on our staff who have the experience and background to be head coaches. Those that express interest, obviously we'll talk to because they've played a key role in our success. But, we'll also talk to other outside of our program," he said.
Replacing Kelly seems nearly impossible, in his time at Oregon the program flourished to unmatched success. But it is Mullens job to do just that, and the expectations for that hire are grand, but also vast.
"What we want is someone that understands the culture. It is unique here, not only within our football program, but within our community. We want someone who has proven excellence. That's been around winning programs, who knows what it takes, because the expectations for this program have shifted. We want to compete for Pac-12 championships, and we want to be in BCS bowls. We want someone who understands what that takes from A-to-Z; from recruiting, to creating a culture of academic excellence, to understanding the role of that team in this community and this department and of course on the field success," he said.