Browns CEO Joe Banner told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that he and owner Jimmy Haslam believed hiring Chip Kelly as their new head coach would have been too big of a risk to take.
After flirting the Browns and Philadelphia Eagles a few week ago, Kelly decided to return to the University of Oregon. Then on Wednesday, he stunned virtually everyone by accepting the Eagles’ head-coaching job.
The Browns interviewed Kelly for seven hours Jan. 4 in Arizona and were close to reaching a deal to make him their 14th full-time head coach, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported. But Banner and Haslam dropped out of the Kelly sweepstakes on Jan. 6, a day after Kelly reportedly met with Eagles for nine hours.
“We removed ourselves from the process,” Banner, the former president of the Eagles, told King. “We really liked Chip. He's intriguing, a very different thinker, and very smart. But you could see he was uncertain what he wanted to do. He may be in Philadelphia 10 years or longer and have a terrific career. But the fact he committed to Tampa Bay last year, backed out, then seemed all year to be leaning toward going to the NFL, then being so uncertain with us, we just felt it was too big a gamble. If there was no ambivalence, we may have offered him the job.”
The Browns hired Rob Chudzinski as their new head coach on Jan. 10. He replaces Pat Shurmur, who was fired Dec. 31 after compiling a record of 9-23 in two seasons with the Browns. Shurmur, coincidentally, is expected to become Kelly’s offensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
When Kelly was introduced to the Philadelphia media last week, he and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, a childhood friend of Banner, dismissed the Browns as a factor in Kelly's decision. Kelly said he narrowed his choices down to the Eagles and Oregon.
Haslam was asked Friday for his reaction to Kelly ultimately choosing the Eagles.
“I didn’t really have [a reaction],” Haslam said. “I’m not worried about any other situation. We’ve got a lot of work to do here.”