Browns have sights on Oregon's Chip Kelly
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns may strike quickly to get Chip Kelly, Oregon's coach who does everything in a hurry.
Kelly, whose up-tempo, fast-paced offense has captured the imagination of several NFL teams and maintained the Ducks' status as a national power, appears to be near the top of Cleveland's list of candidates to replace Pat Shurmur, fired earlier this week after going 9-23 in two seasons.
According to several reports, Browns CEO Joe Banner is already in Arizona and intends to interview Kelly, who is preparing the fifth-ranked Ducks for Thursday night's Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State. An interview could take place as early as Friday.
Kelly has been deflecting questions about his future all week. He did so again on Wednesday when he was asked if he expects to be contacted by NFL teams in the days ahead.
"I don't expect anything," said Kelly, 45-7 in four years at Oregon. "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."
After that, his next stop isn't certain.
Kelly and Alabama's Nick Saban are the hottest commodities in the college game. It's possible that new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam may make a strong run at Saban, who worked in Cleveland as an assistant under Bill Belichick in the 1990s.
Saban would not be available for an interview until after next Monday's BCS title game, and the Browns could risk losing out on Kelly if they wait that long.
The Philadelphia Eagles are also believed to be interested in Kelly, who came close to taking Tampa Bay's job last year.
Browns safety T.J. Ward knows the 49-year-old Kelly as well as anyone. Ward, who walked on with the Ducks, believes his former coach is ready to make the leap to the pros.
"I think the players in the NFL would respect him and they will respect how he approaches you," Ward said. "He lets you do your job. In college, he treated us like pros. I think that's what players respect and appreciate about him."
It is not known if Haslam is with Banner in Arizona. Haslam said earlier this week that only he and Banner know which candidates may become Cleveland's sixth coach since 1999. The Browns, who have lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons, are not confirming any interviews.
On Tuesday, the Browns interviewed Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who said his meeting with the team was "fantastic."
Horton's interview satisfies the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to speak with a minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation positions.
Haslam and Banner made it clear that their next coach will have final say of the team's 53-man roster, a perk that could entice Kelly to leave Oregon. Kelly's pedal-to-the-metal offensive system is intriguing to the Browns and other teams who have already borrowed aspects of Oregon's no-huddle, go-go-go approach.
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