Reporting Daryl Ruiter
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) — Less than 48 hours after the firing of Pat Shurmur, a front runner to be his successor may have emerged.
Oregon’s Chip Kelly.
Since arriving in Arizona for Thursday night’s Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State, Kelly has been bombarded with questions about his future – namely if the NFL is in it.
Wednesday morning was no different.
“I don’t expect anything,” Kelly said to reporters at his press conference. “I said this a million times: I’m never surprised by anything. I do not know what the future holds. I do know we have a football game tomorrow night, and I’m going to be there.”
Browns CEO Joe Banner flew to Arizona Tuesday where it’s presumed that he will interview Kelly as soon as Friday.
The Browns interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton Tuesday evening.
Horton told the Arizona republic that Browns CEO Joe Banner as well as owner Jimmy Haslam were present for the interview. Horton was a defensive backs coach for the Steelers from 2004-10 where Haslam became a minority owner in the team in 2008.
The presence of Haslam means that the Browns will be armed to make their best pitch to land Kelly if in fact he is the top choice.
Banner made it clear on Monday that his philosophy is to hire the next coach first, then worry about a personnel director or GM second.
Kelly spoke Wednesday about the importance of adapting schemes and systems to the strength of players – something that previous Browns coaches rarely have done.
“Anything you do has to be personnel driven,” Kelly said Wednesday. “You have to adapt to the personnel you have. There’s a lot of great offenses out there, but does it fit with the personnel you have? The key is making sure what you’re doing is giving your people a chance to be successful.”
Kelly flirted with accepting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job a year ago but remained in Eugene where he led the Ducks to a 4th straight BCS game in as many seasons roaming the sidelines for Oregon.
With the NCAA expected to levy sanctions against the program for violations that occurred under Kelly, he is primed for a Pete Carroll-esque jump to the NFL.
Browns safety T.J. Ward played for Kelly and feels he’d be a solid choice to replace Shurmur.
“He’s a great coach,” Ward said. “You can see what he’s doing at Oregon. I think he has what it takes to be successful in this league. Whoever they pick, Chip is a great option.”
After firing Shurmur Monday, Haslam used 2 words to describe his next coach.
“Strong leadership,” Haslam said.
That’s Kelly according to Ward.
“He’s a great motivator,” Ward said. “He comes in and he knows what he wants to do and he gets his players to play for him and play hard. He has a great scheme, great system. He’s a high energy coach.”
Kelly’s fast-paced, zone-read spread offensive system has caught a few team’s attention – especially with the success of quarterbacks like Michael Vick and most recently Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III.
He didn’t want to speculate as to if his system could work in the NFL but to no surprise he mentioned both Newton and Griffin as signs that it can.
“The Washington Redskins are doing a pretty good job. The kid at Carolina has done a pretty good job,” Kelly said. “But it depends. I don’t know. I’ve never coached in that league. I visited practices and talked to people about it. The one thing about that, about everything, you have to have good players. Sometimes the coaching aspect is way overrated. We don’t play the game. I think college football is a personnel driven game. So is the NFL.
“Your job as a coach very simply is to put your players in positions to make plays, get out of the way and go make them.”
The transition from the college game to the NFL can be difficult for coaches but Ward feels that Kelly’s coaching style would be a winner in an NFL locker room.
“I think the players in the NFL would respect him and they will respect how he approaches you,” Ward said. “He let’s you do your job. In college he treated us like pros. I think that’s what players respect and appreciate about him.”
Cleveland isn’t the only team interested in Kelly. The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to make a strong push for him to succeed Andy Reid and the Buffalo Bills reportedly would also like to interview him.
The Browns have made it clear that they will not comment on or confirm any interviews but it appears that Kelly is indeed atop their wish list to succeed Shurmur.