Browns bigwigs Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner should be warmed up for their much-anticipated interview with University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly.
After all, they’ve already interviewed four candidates for their head-coaching vacancy, according to reports. Kelly is expected to become the fifth today, Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com said during a radio interview Thursday with 92.3 The Fan.
And it’s a good thing the Browns’ brass is ready to roll because the stakes have been raised in terms of securing Kelly. Penn State University coach Bill O’Brien, who seemed to be the Browns’ top choice behind Kelly, is no longer an option. O’Brien interviewed with the Browns and Philadelphia Eagles this week but told Penn State he will stay put, Caplan reported.
“I’m not a one-and-done guy,” O’Brien told the Harrisburg Patriot-News on Thursday night. “I made a commitment to these players at Penn State, and that’s what I am going to do. I’m not gonna cut and run after one year. That’s for sure.”
The Browns aren’t commenting on candidates or interviews during their search for their sixth full-time head coach since 1999. Haslam, who struck a deal Aug. 2 to buy the Browns from Randy Lerner for about $1 billion, and Banner, the team’s new CEO, fired coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert on Monday.
But Kelly is believed to be the primary target of the Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams are scheduled to interview him, along with the Buffalo Bills, according to USA Today.
Kelly, 49, and his team defeated Kansas State 35-17 in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday night in Glendale, Ariz. Haslam and Banner, meanwhile, were in position to pounce.
In his postgame news conference, Kelly was asked about his impending interviews with NFL teams.
“It’s an honor that someone would say that they want to talk to me about maybe moving on to go coach in the National Football League,” said Kelly, whose record at Oregon improved to 46-7. “But it’s because of what [my players] do. So I’ll listen, and we’ll see.”
Last year, Kelly turned down a chance to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So what would draw him to test himself at the next level?
“I don’t really know,” Kelly said. “That’s part of what this whole thing is. It’s more of a fact-finding mission and finding out if it fits or doesn’t fit. I don’t really have that answer. I’ve been in one in interview in my life for the National Football League, and that was a year ago. So I don’t really have any preconceived notions about it, and I think that’s what this deal’s all about for me. … I’ll get an opportunity if people do call and see where they are. But I want to get it wrapped up quickly and figure out where I’m gonna be.”
The Browns also are preparing to find a personnel executive to pair with whoever becomes their next coach.
They have asked the San Francisco 49ers for permission to interview Tom Gamble for their general-manager vacancy, Albert Breer of NFL Network reported. Gamble is also being pursued by the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers, according to the report. Gamble, the 49ers’ director of player personnel, is known for his extensive scouting experience as well as his knowledge about contract negotiations and the salary cap.
In addition to O’Brien, a former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, the Browns also interviewed Syracuse University coach Doug Marrone and former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt on Thursday and Wednesday, respectively, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported. In an interview with Arizona reporters, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton confirmed he interviewed with the Browns on Tuesday.
Marrone served as the offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints from 2006-08. The Saints ranked first in total offense (410.7 yards per game) in 2008, fourth (361.2) in 2007 and first (391.5) in 2006.
Marrone joined Syracuse in 2009 and has compiled a record of 25-25. A former offensive lineman, Marrone played two seasons in the NFL after being selected in the sixth round of the 1986 draft.
Marrone, 48, also had an interview set up with the Bills, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. He’s on the radar of the Eagles, too, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Whisenhunt was fired Monday. In six seasons with the Cardinals, he compiled a record of 45-51, including 4-2 in the playoffs. He guided the Cardinals to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season, but they lost 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Whisenhunt, 50, was a special-teams coach for the Browns during their expansion season in 1999. He later served as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator from 2004-06 before becoming the Cardinals’ head coach in 2007.
Whisenhunt, who played tight end in the NFL for nine seasons (1985-93), also interviewed with the Bills, according to the team’s website.
By interviewing Horton, a former Steelers assistant, the Browns satisfied the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams with head-coaching vacancies to interview at least one minority candidate. Horton played defensive back in the NFL for 10 seasons (1983-92).
Name to watch
John Idzik is a hot candidate for a job in the Browns’ front office, Jason La Canfora of CBS reported Thursday.
Since 2007, Idzik has been the Seattle Seahawks’ vice president of football administration, a role in which he has served as a salary-cap manager and chief contract negotiator.
His resume also includes stints as the assistant general manager of the Buccaneers and the senior director of football operations of the Cardinals.
Tracking Big Red
The Kansas City Chiefs are on the verge of hiring ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid as their next head coach, ESPN reported Thursday. The Eagles fired Reid on Monday.
Reid is expected to bring some of his old friends to his new job, perhaps Shurmur, Heckert and Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress. They all worked together during Reid’s 14-year tenure with the Eagles.
If Reid and some of his buddies who are ex-Browns land in Kansas City, it could set up an interesting matchup next season. The Browns will visit the Chiefs in 2013.
Heckert, though, has an interview scheduled Saturday with the Jets, Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reported.
The Browns signed defensive end Kendrick Adams, tight end Dan Gronkowski and defensive back Kent Richardson to reserve/future contracts for the 2013 season.
Adams spent the final three weeks of the 2012 season on the Browns’ practice squad. He was previously on the practice squads of the Buccaneers and Detroit Lions.
Gronkowski, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, has started five of the 21 NFL games in which he has appeared, compiling nine receptions for 69 yards. He appeared in five games with the Browns in 2011 and spent training camp with the team in 2012 before being waived during final roster cuts.
Richardson spent the past two seasons with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena League. Last season, he tallied 80 tackles and a league-leading 14 interceptions. He was named the AFL Defensive Back of the Year.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.