WFNY Roundtable: The Chip Kelly debacle and the ongoing search for a Browns head coach


Though the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching search officially began upon the ousting of one Pat Shurmur, it began to pick up substantial steam over the last 48 hours once Oregon’s Chip Kelly did his annual flirtation with a league he is obviously not cut out for. The rumor mill swirled, speculation was ripe, and the Browns left their temporary headquarters in Arizona without a captain for their ship. The result was one part chaos and the other part wonder — wonder surrounding what is to be learned, wonder surrounding what is yet to come. What follows is a roundtable discussion between members of WFNY. Do enjoy.

Scott: Alright. I’ll start things off. Jimmy Haslam III and Joe Banner set up shop in Arizona where there proceeded to interview a handful of qualified candidates, only to seemingly put all of their eggs in the Chip Kelly basket. Not only did Kelly leave without signing whatever offer was presented to him, but he’s going back to college — very Brett Favrian, in my opinion — and the Browns have flown home without a head coach in place while the candidate pool continues to lose depth. What should fans take away from the circus that was the last 48 hours?

Craig: Browns fans should take away that this is a fluid process and that this ownership group needs to interview real human beings and make real decisions about real people, as opposed to resumes and stat sheets.

Kirk: Browns fans should take away that it’s not a done deal until there’s a signature. They should realize that Haslam and Banner went hard after the sexiest name out there, and in the end (reportedly), they were not confident enough in his commitment to their situation. I can understand if that was the case. You can’t make a guy go if he doesn’t want to take the leap, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crushed by missing out on Kelly.

Andrew: I think one thing everyone needs to take away from this weekend is that when the media reports something is “close” to happening it doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to happen. There was so much speculation going on over things that weren’t being reported as news. Nobody reported Kelly had agreed to coach the Browns. Nobody on Saturday reported that he had agreed to coach the Eagles. But there was a lot of talk as if both of those things were true. So I think it was all a good reminder that reports on Twitter, even from good reporters, are often the tools and propaganda of teams and agents. Like Kirk said, nothing is done until an agreement is in place and paper is signed.

TD: To me, the takeaway is that we shouldn’t listen or believe any of these reports, whether it be by national or local media, because nobody knows what is true and what isn’t. Speculation gets everyone all excited and/or in a huff. Lets wait until we hear from BANNER OR HASLAM THEMSELVES and wait for the ink to dry before anything is “close” or a “done deal.” Haslam and Banner clearly were hot for Chip Kelly because they spent seven hours interviewing him. But none of us know what happened in that room except for the three of those men and Kelly’s agent. Whats done is done. Lets move on to the “reboot” of the search.

Ryan: Browns fans should come away from this weekend with the realization that Jimmy Haslam is not Jerry Jones, at least not yet.

 Jerry Jones has won Super Bowls, and successfully attracted big names in the past (Switzer, Johnson, and Parcells) while Jimmy Haslam has been an NFL owner a few months. Amidst the excitement that comes with Jimmy Haslam is the realization that turning the Browns into a hot destination may not happen over night. As with everything in the NFL, unfortunately “it’s a process.”

Scott: Well, this all seemingly goes back to the point shared by me and Craig that the team could have done a lot more to spell all speculation. The Eagles, while not being fully transparent, updated fans throughout the weekend via press release. Instead, Browns fans were left to wonder and fight amongst themselves. That said, what will be the takeaway from this weekend?

Kirk: What will fans take away? They’ll probably be venomous and negative about the new regime unless they can pull another big name out of their butts. Unless it’s Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, or Nick Saban, you’re going to have plenty of skepticism and naysayers regardless of who they hire until the team gets started in the fall and the new guy gets a chance to prove himself.

Craig: Yeah, I think the takeaway will largely be that the Browns failed to land the big fish and that will fuel fears of another Mangini/Shurmur-type candidate that seemingly nobody else was even trying to hire.

Rock: Agreed. I think fans will take away that this is just par for the course for the Browns. I think this weekend is just the type of weekend we’ve all come to expect from the Browns.

Scott: Amazing what a little new-age PR could do for a franchise that is desperate need to create goodwill with a fan base. On that same note, is the honeymoon phase with Haslam and Banner officially over in Cleveland?

Rock: I sure hope not. They didn’t do anything wrong. They interviewed a guy who was considered the hottest coaching candidate, and they ultimately decided not to offer him the job. Who knows what really happened this weekend in Arizona. But Chip Kelly returning to the Ducks shouldn’t be a surprise. Haslam and Banner’s weekend is only disappointing (whether you wanted Kelly or not) because we allowed ourselves to believe reports that a deal was close. We allowed ourselves to think that for once the Browns were getting their first choice to coach the team. But that’s on us, not on Haslam and Banner. They did their part in interviewing Kelly and they reacted to the information they had, which is certainly a lot more information than any of us have.

Kirk: They’ll get ripped for this a bit, but I don’t think the honeymoon is truly over for Haslam/Banner until the team gets off to a slow start next season. At 1-3 or 1-4, the pressure would start to mount.

TD: The Honeymoon isn’t over yet and it won’t ever be with Haslam. Banner is another story. I for one don’t really trust him as a true “football man” and if he ends up bringing in Mike Lombardi as his personnel chief, the honeymoon will be over the minute it is announced. Nobody in this town trusts Lombardi and he has given them no reason to.

Ryan: The honeymoon is not over. Let’s wait and see who they end up hiring before we rush to judgement. Although Chip was the sexy pick, there’s other fish in the sea…they just better find the right fish.

Craig: No. It may feel like it right now, but if they hire someone who can come in and convince Browns fans that he’s going to try to win as many games as possible right away with a young, talented roster Banner and Haslam will be fine. Also, avoiding the words build, re-build, process, etc. will help greatly.

Scott: Great point with the keywords, Craig. Haslam and Banner’s press conference from last week left a lot of fans feeling confident that these two men had the (candid) conviction to get this job done — that they’d find their man sooner than later and we would all be on our collective way a team which is now preparing for the upcoming draft. Instead, we’re still spinning our wheels a bit. What, given all of this, is the ideal next step? Kidnap Nick Saban?

TD: The ideal next step for me is not that far off – wait until the National Title game is over, fly to Alabama, and show Nick Saban a blank check and tell him to name your price. When/if that fails, continue to interview as many guys as you can. There are still a lot of great candidates out there, i.e. Mike McCoy, Bruce Arians, etc.

Craig: The ideal next step for me would be to slow it down now unless they’re really sold on Whisenhunt. There are going to be more candidates revealing themselves from these playoffs and potentially even the National Championship game. The immediacy of pitching to Chip Kelly was obvious because there was competition for his services, but now if they rush into the second candidate they’ll truly look desperate.

Kirk: The ideal next step is to just, to borrow the phrase, reboot and expand the search. I don’t want them deciding between only Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton, if those are the only two still in the running they’ve in fact interviewed. I would like to see them talk to at least 2-3 more candidates, including Bruce Arians, Mike McCoy, and Greg Roman. I would still heavily lean toward an offense mind and make my decision between those three I mentioned and Whisenhunt.

Rock: Ask Doug Marrone if he’s sure he wants to coach the Bills.

Scott: No kidding. I’m still scratching my head over that one and I wasn’t exactly sold on Marrone as a candidate…

Rock: Okay, that’s not going to happen. I would like to see the Browns expand their search. Find a young, smart coordinator out there who has ideas how to innovate and come up with ways to beat the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals.

Scott: So you guys would prefer the next Andy Reid or Mike Tomlin? A guy seemingly plucked out of thin air? Will the fan base have the patience for this?

Ryan: Yes, they need to not panic — think outside the box. Nobody knows if Chip Kelly would have been a success, but he is someone that would have brought excitement to Cleveland. Don’t rush to snatch up one of the names everyone else is looking at, do some homework, and get a guy with a high upside. We all know there is no such thing as a safe hire. You’re gambling regardless who you choose so you might as well hire the coach with the biggest potential payout.

Scott: It will certainly be an interesting few days then. I think we are largely dealing with one heck of a dichotomy — one half of the fan base wants a big splash like Gruden or Saban, the other wants the next big name, one that will take a gamble married with fan trust and patience (two qualities that are hard to come by these days). Hopefully, come this time next week, we’re talking about the team’s new direction. This seems like the best next ideal step of all.