Now the Browns need a personnel executive to pair with Chip Kelly, who appears to be on the verge of becoming their sixth full-time head coach since 1999.
Kelly, the University of Oregon’s coach for the past four seasons, and the Browns are close to reaching an agreement that would make him the 14th full-time head coach of the Browns, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Friday. The Browns’ brass interviewed him Friday in Arizona.
Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner said they would hire a head coach first and then a personnel man who complements him. On Monday, they fired coach Pat Shurmur, who went 9-23 in two seasons, and General Manager Tom Heckert.
Banner said the head coach would have final say on the 53-man roster and play a more prominent role in the organization than the personnel executive.
So who would play Robin to Kelly’s Batman?
NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi has been linked to the Browns for months as a candidate to head their personnel department. Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com reported Friday that Lombardi has already been studying free-agent targets for the Browns, who finished 5-11 in 2012.
The connections Lombardi has with Kelly and Banner are also impossible to overlook.
Lombardi worked for the Browns from 1987-95, ascending the ranks from a scout to pro personnel director to player personnel director. His tenure in Cleveland overlapped with former Browns coach and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick from 1991-95.
Belichick and Lombardi are close. Belichick even hired Lombardi’s son, Mick, as a scouting assistant. Belichick and Kelly are close, too. Belichick told the Boston Globe he has sought advice from Kelly about how to use concepts from his up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense.
Banner and Lombardi worked together for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1997-98. Lombardi hasn’t been with a team since being fired by the Oakland Raiders in 2007.
Even though Lombardi has strong ties, a couple of other candidates have surfaced.
The Browns requested permission from the San Francisco 49ers to interview director of player personnel Tom Gamble, NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported. The New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers are also reportedly pursuing him. Gamble, who’s known for his experience in player evaluation, and Heckert were scheduled to interview with the Jets today, but Heckert canceled his meeting, Brian Costello of the New York Post reported.
Seattle Seahawks vice president of football administration John Idzik is also a hot candidate for a job in the Browns’ front office, Jason La Canfora of CBS reported. Idzik, who’s known as a salary-cap manager and contract negotiator, previously served as the assistant general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the senior director of football operations of the Arizona Cardinals.
After news of Kelly’s expected deal with the Browns broke Friday evening, quarterback Brandon Weeden attempted to clear something up by using Twitter.
On Monday, Weeden was asked if his skills are compatible with Kelly’s offense.
“I don’t think I can run the zone read,” Weeden said.
On Friday, he tweeted he was kidding.
“Laughed as I said it!” Weeden wrote on Twitter. “Obviously a joke!”
The Browns’ quarterback situation, though, isn’t a laughing matter. Weeden started all 15 games in which he played since being drafted 22nd overall last year, but there are serious questions about whether he fits into the new regime’s plans.
When asked Monday to evaluate Weeden’s rookie season, Banner said, “I don’t think it’s our place, and I don’t think it’s the right time to start doing player evaluations.”
If the Browns hire Lombardi, it’s also worth noting that, in his role as an analyst, he was critical of their choice to pick Weeden in the first round.
Backup quarterbacks Colt McCoy, Thaddeus Lewis and newcomer Josh Johnson, whose contract expires in March, are much more mobile than Weeden. Another factor that can’t hurt McCoy’s cause is that he and Kelly have the same agent, David Dunn.
Still, Weeden played in a spread offense at Oklahoma State, and it’s too early to know exactly what Kelly’s scheme will look like in the NFL.
Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor was fined $7,875 for blindsiding Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Kelvin Beachum with a forearm smash away from the play Sunday early in the third quarter of the Browns’ 24-10 loss in the season finale at Heinz Field.
Beachum suffered a concussion as a result of the hit and did not return. After the game, Taylor insisted he wouldn’t be fazed if he received discipline from the league.
“I don’t care,” Taylor said. “If I get a call [from the league], I get a call. I got it.
“It’s between the whistles. You’ve got to keep your head on a swivel.”
Taylor’s strike on Beachum was a reaction to Steelers guard Doug Legursky diving into the legs of Browns linebacker Craig Robertson in the second quarter after the runner had been tackled. Robertson got up and started swinging at Legursky.
Legursky was not fine. After the game, Legursky admitted his hit led to a series of nasty shots the two teams took at each other in the second half.
“I got underneath [Robertson’s] skin,” Legursky said. “I was finishing a play. He didn’t like the way I did it. It all stemmed from there.
“It was a pretty grimy game. They were taking shots. Everybody was.”
Banner spent time with Dunn on Thursday, Caplan reported. During Banner’s 12-year reign as president of the Philadelphia Eagles, he and Dunn worked on several deals together, which likely will help in completing Kelly’s contract. … The Kansas City Chiefs hired ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid and parted with GM Scott Pioli. Green Bay Packers director of football operations John Dorsey is the clear-cut favorite to become the Chiefs’ GM, and Heckert is second on their list, Breer reported. Shurmur could become the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator because Reid is his mentor. Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress, who also worked with Reid, Shurmur and Heckert in Philadelphia, might be a candidate to become the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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.