Browns executives are lining up to speak with spread-offense mastermind Chip Kelly about their head-coaching vacancy after his University of Oregon team faces Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night in Glendale, Ariz., Jason La Canfora of CBS reported Tuesday.
Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner fired coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert on Monday morning after the Browns finished their 12th losing season since 1999 with a record of 5-11. In a news conference a few hours later, the franchise's new bigwigs explained they will hire a head coach first and then find a personnel executive to complement him.
Haslam and Banner said they wouldn't comment on potential candidates during their search. But by Monday night, Kelly was labeled as their top choice by two high-ranking NFL personnel executives who spoke to Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com.
Banner was in Arizona on Tuesday, where he interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, La Canfora reported. Interviewing Horton would satisfy the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for their head-coaching vacancies.
But by being in Arizona, Banner would also be in position to interview Kelly. The Philadelphia Eagles, who fired coach Andy Reid on Monday, and Buffalo Bills are also looking to meet with Kelly after Oregon's bowl game, La Canfora reported.
Last year, Kelly turned down a chance to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it's unclear whether he would leave Oregon this year. La Canfora reported there's a growing sense he might stay put. Kelly, 49, has been bombarded with questions about his future, and he'll likely be asked to address the topic this morning, when he's scheduled to hold another news conference to preview the game.
Kelly might be influenced to enter the NFL because of potential NCAA sanctions stemming from a recruiting scandal. Some are skeptical he could succeed in the league because he has no NFL experience. Others doubt his high-powered, spread offense would work in the NFL, but that doesn't seem to bother Banner.
If they can't get Kelly, the Browns will push for Penn State University coach Bill O'Brien, La Canfora reported. The Cardinals, Eagles and San Diego Chargers are expected to court him as well.