The Chip Kelly saga says more about Kelly than it does about the Browns, but it raises questions about both.
Because even though the Browns did not have a first choice in their coaching search, they still interviewed Kelly for seven hours and waited around for him the next day while he talked to the Eagles.
Reportedly of course, according to “sources.”
It wasn’t until the next day that the Browns ended their sleepover in Phoenix and returned to Cleveland, where word was put out that the Browns gave up on Kelly because they weren’t convinced he was committed to the NFL.
After seven hours of interviews and another day of waiting it takes another day to leak word that he wasn’t committed.
Let’s be clear here. Kelly’s histrionics and drama do not in the least mean that Rob Chudzinski was not a good hire and can not be a good coach. He was a good hire — albeit as a fifth or sixth choice — and he can win. That does not change because Kelly went to the team he believed could win, the Eagles.
Nor does it change the fact that the Browns chose to focus on Kelly. Clearly, he seemed like a guy the new ownership and management team could sell as a trend-setting, big-time, high-impact hire (though it must be noted he does not have the cred or juice of Terry Francona). And it sure helped that Kelly won, and won fun — by playing games that were enjoyable to watch that could bring a whole new style to the NFL.
Yes, this entire situation is what could be a called “a real noggin scratcher.”
Kelly sure seems to have trouble making a decision. A year ago he agreed to join the Bucs, then backed out. This year, he went back to Oregon and suddenly decided to go to Philadelphia. His decisiveness lasts about as long as the time between plays in his offense.
For that reason alone, perhaps the Browns are better off.
Then again, watching Colin Kaepernick run the Packers defense ragged in the playoffs, watching Robert Griffin III work in Washington …. it all makes this the perfect time to try a guy like Kelly.
There are many reasons to question whether it can work. Most NFL folks feel defenses will catch up to the read-option system, that the competition Oregon faces doesn’t even match the competition against the worst NFL team.
But it’s worked so well in Oregon and there are so many people who believe Kelly will not force things that the Eagles have become one of the NFL’s most interesting teams.
Cleveland has a fine young coach, and the sixth overall draft pick, a top 10 rite of April for Cleveland fans.
As for those Oregon recruits who believed in Kelly … well … take a number. Because there’s lots of kids who have been shafted this way before.
When it comes to coaches, money talks … so coaches walk.
As for the Browns, the fact that they didn’t hire Kelly might not be a problem, even after their efforts. Sometimes things just don’t work.
Perhaps it wasn’t the right fit. Perhaps Kelly said without saying he wouldn’t lead the Browns. Perhaps there were issues of control related to Joe Banner being involved in football. Nobody really knows.
Conceivably, the Eagles did not give Kelly glowing reports on Banner, and when this week’s report that Ken Whisenhunt balked at coaching the Browns when Banner insisted on being involved in coaching hires, it might — emphasis on might — make sense that Kelly waffled.
At this point, we’ll never know, because though the Browns promised to be “transparent” in the new regime, they have not commented on the details of the search, to the point they won’t even discuss candidates.
That’s their right, of course. And it’s the mode of operation in the new NFL — hide as much as possible and then grumble and act shocked when it gets out.
The problem is secrecy breeds rumors and reports from sources, and the team behind the veil has to live with them when openness and candor would stop the problem before it starts.
As to the word put out that the Browns backed away because Kelly wasn’t committed to the NFL, at this point that sounds like the lamest spin this side of the finest, nicest man ever arrested. Only a few folks were privy to those conversations in Phoenix, and it did Kelly no good at all to put that word out.
But it did make the Browns appear above it all. Or at least try to appear above it all.
Why they didn’t just admit to an interview the world knew of and simply say things didn’t work out is a mystery of the universe. But the Browns have provided lots of those mysteries over the years.
The strange thing is this could conceivably work out in the end.
John Harbaugh was the Ravens second choice. Mike Tomlin had to beat out Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm in Pittsburgh. Second, third, fourth … yes even fifth choices can work.
It’s just that with Kelly taking the Eagles job after supposedly waffling on the NFL, the little questions about whether the Browns should have hired him and why they didn’t will be the elephants in the stadium the next few years.