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The Browns have dropped out of the Chip Kelly sweepstakes despite being labeled the favorites less than 24 hours ago, a league source confirmed for the Beacon Journal.
On Sunday NFL Countdown, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and his contingent are flying back to Cleveland to restart and reboot their head-coaching search with Kelly out of the mix.
“Chip Kelly will not be the next Cleveland Browns coach,” Mortensen said on the air.
A person familiar with the search told the Associated Press that Kelly was indecisive about making the jump to the NFL, and the Browns decided to move on to other candidates.
The Browns won't comment on candidates or interviews until their search is complete, but several names have surfaced. The Browns reportedly interviewed former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Penn State University coach Bill O’Brien, who dropped out of the running Thursday night by deciding to stay with the Nittany Lions.
Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports reported tonight that Cleveland's ongoing search will include two former Browns offensive coordinators: Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who held the same job with the Browns from 2001-03, and Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, who was with the Browns from 1988-89.
Mortensen reported today that the Browns like Whisenhunt. He was fired Monday after compiling a record of 45-51 in six seasons with the Cardinals. The record includes a 4-2 mark 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. He played tight end in the NFL for nine seasons (1985-93).
Kelly will choose between staying at the University of Oregon or becoming the next head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King reported. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported NIKE founder and Oregon booster Phil Knight is pushing for Kelly to return to the Ducks, and the Eagles tried to sell Kelly on their quarterbacks, Michael Vick and Nick Foles.
The news is reminiscent of when the Browns lost a bidding war last March while attempting to trade with the St. Louis Rams for the right to draft Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. But this time, the Browns are led by the new regime of Haslam and CEO Joe Banner.
The Browns reportedly interviewed Kelly for seven hours Friday in Arizona and lawyers were scheduled to be in attendance for a dinner meeting Saturday night, a sign Haslam and Banner intended to hammer out a contract that would make Kelly the Browns' 14th full-time head coach and sixth since their rebirth in 1999.
On Saturday afternoon, ESPN and NFL Network reported the Browns were favored to secure Kelly. A day earlier, Rapoport reported the Browns were close to a deal with Kelly.
But the Eagles swooped in Saturday and had a lunch meeting with Kelly. It reportedly stretched into a nine-hour session and didn’t end until about midnight. The Eagles confirmed their meeting with Kelly today and announced they were flying from Arizona to Denver to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Kelly, 49, has no NFL experience, but he was viewed as the top target of the Browns and Eagles because he is considered an offensive innovator. He has turned Oregon into a national power by leading it to four consecutive BCS games, and elite NFL coaches, including the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, have sought his advice about how to run an up-tempo attack.
The Browns staked out in Arizona for most of last week so they could talk to Kelly after he guided Oregon to a 35-17 win over Kansas State on Thursday night in the Fiesta Bowl.
Syracuse University coach Doug Marrone seemed to be a strong backup plan of the Browns and Eagles, but he agreed to become the next coach of the Buffalo Bills, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early this morning. The Browns reportedly interviewed Marrone on Thursday and again on Saturday while they were waiting for the conclusion of Kelly’s marathon interview with the Eagles.
The Browns fired coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert on Monday after finishing 2012 with a record of 5-11, their 12th losing season since their rebirth and their fifth in a row. They have since embarked on a wild ride to find Shurmur’s successor.