Chip Kelly and his built-for-speed, built-for-the-wide-open college game offense are staying in the college ranks.
We won’t know what the NFL version of this offense would have looked like, and that’s a big part of the disappointment that comes with the Browns watching their first choice for their head coaching job decide to keep his current one.
Jimmy Haslam paid $1 billion to buy the Browns last fall, and it’s hard to blame him for wanting to put the shiniest, fastest, most innovative toys in his new garage. From the list of names we think we know the Browns have either contacted, interviewed or wish to, it’s clear an offensive-minded coach is on the list. Kelly’s status as the first guy multiple teams wanted to interview was well-earned, and though there’s no guarantee his offense would have worked at the NFL, wouldn’t it have been nice to see a certain brand of aggressive, out-of-the box thinking in regard to the Browns?
It’s clear what’s been there — from a personnel, coaching and scheme standpoint — in previous years hasn’t been enough. Haslam and his new possible Boss Of Everything, Joe Banner, weren’t responsible for past performances that ranged from bland to downright bad, but it’s nice to see them at least try to prioritize pushing something different, pushing the proverbial envelope and trying to make a splash.
From direct quotes and from reading between the lines of quick decisions and splashy, high-dollar hires on the business side, these new (again) Browns want the shiniest, splashiest and best of everything, and they’re going to chase it. Now, spending gobs of money — and specifically on people who never put on a uniform or directly selected a player — was never a problem for the previous ownership, either. It just didn’t work. Again and again, it didn’t work.
And, one week into the new era, there are no wins, no gains, nothing yet. The NFL’s official website/TV network essentially saying on Friday night that Kelly to the Browns was a done deal got lots of folks excited — and led to those same people feeling awfully deflated as the weekend went on.
The show will go on.
The Browns not getting their first choice is a disappointment, but it’s a temporary one. It’s about getting it right more than it’s about winning the initial press conference or hitting a public home run, and there’s also credence to the thought that the Browns making the right hires in the personnel department is more important than the head-coaching hire. They’ll get a good coach. He’ll need more good players to have a chance to win anything substantial.
Kelly or no Kelly, one Gruden Brother or the other, offensive firepower is more important than any offensive scheme. The Browns have some young players with plenty of potential in Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon and Greg Little. They have a high draft pick, plenty of money to spend in free agency and a core in place on both lines. If and when the Browns make a real talent leap, then they’ll be in position to make a real leap.
**Kelly is staying at Oregon, surprise candidate Doug Marrone landed with the Bills, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien got a big raise to stay in the job he planned on staying in all along, and the Browns reportedly have an interview scheduled this week with CFL coach Marc Trestman.
Trestman has a good reputation among football people, and he has the kind of offense-first mindset and credentials the Browns are apparently looking for. At this point, hiring a CFL coach would make the type of splash in and around Cleveland that The Wave at Geauga Lake has been making for the last few years.
This has happened before. In 2009, the first person with whom Randy Lerner spoke was Bill Cowher. The Browns made plenty of calls, then ended up with a candidate nobody else was calling in Eric Mangini. Way back in 1999, Al Lerner and Carmen Policy thought Brian Billick would fly back to Cleveland with them.
He didn’t, as you may remember.
Maybe the Browns called Cowher again this time around, and/or maybe they called Jon Gruden. Maybe this week they’ll call Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, and they’ll probably call Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Teams try to move fast with this. If there was any legitimate interest in Ken Whisenhunt or Ray Horton, one of them would probably be flying to Cleveland today. Or would have yesterday.
Might one of the two coaches in tonight’s BCS National Championship Game get a call from Haslam and/or Banner tomorrow? Brian Kelly would fit with what appears to have been the Browns’ initial line of thinking. Nick Saban has been mentioned time and again, has worked in Cleveland before, has tried the NFL before — and probably has little reason to leave what just might the best football coaching job in America.
From the last 60 hours and the events of the Chip Kelly flirtation with the Browns and Eagles, we can either assume that money really isn’t everything in this crazy coaching business — or that Phil Knight’s Nike money is better than anybody else’s.
Sometime this month, probably, the Browns will have a coach. And a completed administrative team, one with big dreams and blank checks. We won’t truly be able to judge this Haslam/Banner team for years to come, so waiting another few days or even a few weeks for the head coach isn’t anything but a minor bump.
It just sure would have been nice for Plan A — one that was concocted, hatched and approached a little differently from others — to come to fruition.