CLEVELAND (AP) – Chip Kelly won’t be packing his visor or high-powered offense and joining the Browns.
A person familiar with Cleveland’s coaching search says the team will not be hiring Oregon’s offensive wizard, who nearly reached an agreement with the Browns on Friday. However, the 49-year-old Kelly was indecisive about making the jump to the NFL and the Browns decided to move on to other candidates.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday because of the sensitivity of the search.
The Browns questioned whether Kelly “was committed to coming to the NFL,” said the person, and the team decided to continue the search for their sixth fulltime coach since 1999.
Kelly, who turned down Tampa Bay’s job deep into negotiations last season, may stay in the college game and return to Oregon, where he has built the Ducks into a national power. Oregon has gone 46-7 the past four seasons under Kelly and made four straight appearances in BCS bowl games.
After Kelly met with the Browns for seven hours Friday, it appeared he was headed to Cleveland. The Philadelphia Eagles even decided to leave Arizona after they were informed a deal between the Browns and Kelly was imminent. However, Kelly wanted to keep a scheduled interview with the Eagles and the team returned and reportedly spent nine hours with him on Saturday.
Kelly also met with the Buffalo Bills, but that was nothing more than a cursory interview for both sides.
The pursuit of Kelly created an interesting subplot between the Browns and Eagles. Cleveland CEO Joe Banner spent 19 seasons in Philadelphia before leaving the team last year amid a power struggle. Banner is longtime friends with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, and the two of them potentially squaring off in a bidding war for Kelly was straight out of a screenplay.
It’s not known what kind of offer the Browns made for Kelly, who earned a base salary of $2.8 million last season at Oregon and still has five years left on his contract.
Meanwhile, the Eagles confirmed they had scheduled an interview with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Sunday.
Kelly’s high-octane, hurry-up offense has raised his profile and made the Ducks, with their splashy array of colorful Nike uniforms, more than a curiosity. Several NFL teams, including the New England Patriots and Washington Redskins, are using elements of Kelly’s schemes in their offenses.
With Kelly no longer in the picture, the Browns will turn their attention to other candidates.
Owner Jimmy Haslam and Banner spent most of the past week in Arizona, where Kelly was coaching Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. While waiting to meet with Kelly, the Browns interviewed former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Syracuse’s Doug Marrone and Penn State’s Bill O’Brien.
Marrone accepted Buffalo’s coaching vacancy Sunday, and O’Brien decided to stay with the Nittany Lions. The interview of Horton satisfies the NFL’s Rooney Rule for minority candidates.
A former NFL player, Whisenhunt, who led the Cardinals to a Super Bowl, spent one season as a special teams coordinator with Cleveland. He also served as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator from 2004-06, and that connection could serve him well with Haslam, who had a minority share in the Steelers before he bought the Browns from Randy Lerner for just over $1 billion.
Haslam and Banner fired Pat Shurmur last week, one day after the Browns finished a 5-11 season with a loss in Pittsburgh. Shurmur went 9-23 in two seasons for the Browns, who have lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons.
Before embarking with Banner on the 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.”
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 last week. It’s not known if the Browns have interviewed any GM candidates.