CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns have circled back in their coaching search after a wild weekend out West.
Now into their second week looking for the team’s sixth full-time coach since 1999, Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are assessing the candidates they’ve already interviewed and setting up meetings with others on their radar.
On Sunday, the Browns eliminated Oregon coach Chip Kelly as a candidate because of his hesitancy about jumping to the pros, a person with knowledge of the team’s meeting with the 49-year-old told the Associated Press. The Browns questioned whether Kelly “was committed to coming to the NFL,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the search.
The Browns met for seven hours in Arizona on Friday with Kelly, and were closing in on a deal when he agreed to keep scheduled meetings with Buffalo and Philadelphia.
At the end of a whirlwind 48 hours, the Browns backed off from Kelly, who has decided to return to Oregon, two people with knowledge of his plans told the AP.
It’s the second time in two years Kelly has flirted with leaving college before choosing to stay with his supersonic Ducks, who have gone 46-7 with a high-scoring, warp-speed offense he designed. He has taken the school to four straight BCS bowls.
At this point, there doesn’t appear to be any front runner to fill Cleveland’s coaching vacancy. Last week, the Browns are known to have interviewed former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.
Marrone was introduced as Buffalo’s coach Monday and O’Brien returned to Happy Valley.
The Browns could be expanding their search beyond U.S. borders.
The team is expected to interview Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, whose resume includes extensive time as an NFL offensive assistant, most recently with the Miami Dolphins in 2004. The 56-year-old has been with Montreal since 2008, leading the Alouettes to two CFL titles in his five seasons.
Trestman coached Cleveland’s quarterbacks in 1988 and was the team’s offensive coordinator in 1989.
The team has not scheduled an interview with Trestman.
Haslam said last week that he would be willing to wait a month to find the “right person” to coach the Browns, who fired Pat Shurmur last week after a 5-11 season. Cleveland has lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons — the second-longest run of futility in league history.
Haslam is determined to find a strong leader to take over his team, bring stability to the franchise and win championships. There’s a chance the billionaire businessman will try to convince Alabama’s Nick Saban to come to Cleveland and be that guy.
The 61-year-old Saban, who will lead the Crimson Tide in Monday night’s BCS title game against Notre Dame, went 15-17 in two years with the Dolphins before taking over at Alabama. There’s been speculation Saban would consider returning to the pros — for the right job.
“I don’t have any unfinished business in the NFL,” Saban said at Saturday’s BCS title game media day. “It’s not something I’m concerned about. It’s not even anything I want to do.”
Saban worked in Cleveland as an assistant under Bill Belichick from 1991-94.
There’s another Kelly who could draw the Browns’ interest, Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly.
Kelly insisted he’s not thinking about anything other than beating ‘Bama, but that could change once the season ends, and especially if he’s hoisting a Waterford crystal football over his head amid a blizzard of confetti.
Kelly knows NFL teams may come knocking on his door, but he insisted he’s content coaching the nation’s No. 1 team.
“I think from my perspective I’ve got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever,” he said. “I just look at the place that I’m at and thankful for the opportunity that I have.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)