CLEVELAND (AP) — For once, Chip Kelly isn’t in hurry-up mode.
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Oregon’s innovative offensive coach has not yet decided if he’ll jump to the NFL and is weighing offers from the Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, who appear to be in a bidding war for the 49-year-old with zero pro experience. The Browns were close to completing a deal with Kelly on Friday, and the potential of it being finalized briefly had the Eagles going in another direction.
However, Kelly, who nearly accepted a job with Tampa Bay last year, kept a scheduled meeting Saturday with the Eagles.
There’s a deeper wrinkle to the Cleveland vs. Philadelphia battle for Kelly. Browns CEO Joe Banner spent 19 seasons — the last 12 as president — in Philadelphia before leaving the team last year. He’s childhood friends with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who could be trying to lure Kelly away from Cleveland.
The Browns are not commenting on any of their interviews or candidates.
It’s possible Kelly could stay at Oregon, where he has built the Ducks into a national power. Oregon has gone 46-7 in the last four years and made four consecutive BCS bowl games. Kelly run’s a high-octane, fast-breaking offense, and elements of his schemes are already being used by New England and Washington.
If he returns to the Eugene, Ore., campus, Kelly may be facing NCAA sanctions as the school is being investigated for recruiting violations.
Owner Jimmy Haslam and Banner have been in Arizona since firing Pat Shurmur last week. Shurmur went 9-23 in two seasons with Cleveland, which is seeking its sixth fulltime coach since 1999.
Before embarking on his coaching search, Haslam said there was no set time frame on finding a coach and he would wait has long as necessary to “bring the right person to Cleveland.”
“Our goal is to get the best person and if we happen to find that person within a week, that’s great and if it takes a month, that’s great also,” Haslam said. “Sooner is preferable, but whatever timetable it takes to get the right person, we’re going to take.”
One candidate has been crossed off Cleveland’s list.
Doug Marrone will leave Syracuse to take over as coach of the Buffalo Bills, two people familiar with the team’s search told The Associated Press on Sunday. Marrone, who served as New Orleans’ offensive coordinator for three seasons, had two interviews with the Browns. He was viewed as a possible backup plan in case Cleveland couldn’t land Kelly.
The Browns are also known to have spoken with former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, who has decided to stay with the Nittany Lions. The interview of Horton satisfies the NFL’s Rooney Rule for minority candidates.
Haslam and Banner are focused on hiring a coach first before turning their attention to a personnel executive. Tom Heckert, who overhauled Cleveland’s roster in the past three years, was also fired following a 5-11 season.