Reporting Daryl Ruiter
Updated 1/5/2013 11:16 AM
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Hold the phone on the Chip Kelly to Cleveland calls – at least for a moment.
After spending 7 hours Friday with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner, Kelly met with the Buffalo Bills Friday night.
He will interview with the Philadelphia Eagles Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles released a statement Saturday morning confirming reports that team officials were off to Arizona.
“The Eagles are committed to finding the right fit for head coach and are heading to Arizona now to kick off a week of interviews with a variety of candidates including Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley,” the team said in the statement.
Kelly and the Browns are expected to speak again Saturday night according to multiple reports and a decision could be made then.
Unlike other NFL teams, the Browns will not comment on or confirm any interviews.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and Tom Withers of the Associated press reported Fzriday that the Browns were close to an agreement with Kelly to be their next head coach.
Kelly could be using the meetings with Buffalo and Philadelphia to weigh his options, confirm that Cleveland is in fact the right fit for him and/or leverage the Browns to increase their offer.
Haslam and Banner began their official courtship of Kelly Friday afternoon, a day after the Ducks’ 35-17 win over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
While talks between Kelly and the Browns continued into Friday evening, the Philadelphia Eagles asked for and received permission to interview Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
They are also scheduled to meet with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Sunday.
The Bills scheduled an interview with McCoy Saturday as well.
Kelly promised his players that he wouldn’t look for another job until after the Fiesta Bowl.
“It’s more a fact-finding mission, finding out if it fits or doesn’t fit,” Kelly said Thursday night. “I’ve been in one interview in my life for the National Football League, and that was a year ago. I don’t really have any preconceived notions about it. I think that’s what this deal is all about for me. It’s not going to affect us in terms of we’re not on the road (recruiting). I’ll get an opportunity if people do call, see where they are.
“I want to get it wrapped up quickly and figure out where I’m going to be.”
Banner spent time with Kelly’s agent, David Dunn, on Thursday, Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com and Sirius/XM reported.
The Ducks have won 12 games in each of the last 3 seasons and have made 4 straight appearances in BCS games while running the most prolific offense in college football.
But the program could be facing NCAA sanctions in the spring.
“We’ve cooperated fully with them,” Kelly said. “If they want to talk to us again, we’ll continue to cooperate fully. I feel confident in the situation.”
As the clock ran down in the final moments Oregon fans could be heard chanting for Kelly to stay in Eugene.
“It just really for me reaffirms what this place is all about,” Kelly said. “It’s a special place with special people. They accepted me 6 years ago when I was at New Hampshire and not many people knew about me and gave me an opportunity. It really means a lot.”
Despite a week of interviews in Arizona, Kelly appears to remain the top target of the Browns to replace Pat Shurmur, who was fired Monday.
Haslam promised an exhaustive search to replace Shurmur and did not establish a definitive timetable for naming a successor.
“The sooner the better,” Haslam said Monday. “The key thing is to get the right person. If we happen to find the right person this week, we’ll have him back here in a week. If it takes a month, we’re going to take a month because we’re very sensitive to getting this right.”
Kelly on the other hand doesn’t want his flirtation with the NFL to drag on.
“I said I’ll always listen, and that’s what I’ll do,” Kelly said. “I know that people want to talk to me because of our players. The success of our football program has always been about our guys. It’s an honor for someone to say they’d want to talk to me about maybe moving on to go coach in the National Football League. But it’s because of what those guys do. I’ll listen, and we’ll see.”
Haslam, who is no stranger to competing to hire top executives, is not worried about a bidding war breaking out for Kelly’s services or any other candidate.
“We’re not going to worry about who else is out there looking for a coach,” Haslam said. “We have our people in mind and we’re going to work hard to bring the right person here to Cleveland.”
Haslam and Banner have made the most of their time this week while waiting to talk to Kelly.
They interviewed Penn State’s Bill O’Brien according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer. They also spoke with Syracuse coach Doug Marrone on Thursday, Former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt Wednesday and his defensive coordinator Ray Horton Tuesday evening.
Kelly’s zone-read spread offensive system has caught on in the NFL – especially with the success of quarterbacks like Michael Vick and most recently Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III.
Ironically Banner could be squaring off against his former team – the Eagles – to land Kelly’s services.
“We go into this extremely confident that we can go after the top people available, at least the top people in our opinion, and that we have a very good chance of being successful in convincing them that this is the right situation,” Banner said. “Most of these top coaches are focused on finding a place where they think they can win and we think we can make a very good case why this is the best opportunity in the league right now.”