By Bruce Hooley
Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s room at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess provides suitable ambiance for the high-powered conversations he’ll host today.
Then again, maybe the luxury digs paid for by Kelly’s soon-to-be-former employer isn’t the appropriate place for him to strike a deal with his new employer.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner probably wouldn’t care if Kelly made them hike to the top of Camelback Mountain, as long as he hears them out on why Cleveland makes more sense than Philadelphia, Buffalo or some other NFL city as Kelly’s landing spot in professional football.
Haslam and Banner should arrive for their interview with the hottest commodity in the coaching market with a sales pitch every bit as polished as the day-glow green helmets Oregon sported last night in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
After previous interviews this week with Ken Whisenhunt, Doug Marrone and Bill O’Brien, the Browns brass should be well beyond the, “I wish I had asked this…” stage of the process.
Both Haslam and Bannner should project a cool detachment born of the confidence that they have something great to sell. They clearly believe that, citing – as modestly as one can – their own brilliance and the win-starved fans of Cleveland among the most-alluring elements of the Browns’ job.
Kelly won’t be rubbing sweaty palms together, either, given that he holds the trump card of multiple teams lining up to hand him millions and as much control of football operations as he can cajole. That gives him such cache Kelly might very well be interviewing the Browns’ head honchos as much as they’re interviewing him.
But sooner or later, after pleasantries are exchanged and small talk gets put aside, it will be time for Haslam and Banner to ask the pertinent questions Kelly must answer expertly to earn an offer from the Browns.
How do you plan to stop the combinations of Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green and Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith in the AFC North?
Everyone knows Kelly is an offensive mastermind, but he can’t count on simply outscoring opponents in the NFL, particularly not in the AFC North. He may be a brilliant tactician, but sooner or later games come down to making a defensive stop. The Browns’ rivals in the division each have a proven passing combination Cleveland lacks at this point. Until the Browns can at least match up in that area, they better know how to stop their most-frequent opponents from scoring.
How extensively must the Browns’ roster be overturned to run your system in Cleveland.
The Browns inexplicably undertook a complete roster overhaul in Year 3 of the Holmgren-Heckert regime. More than half the roster – 27 of 53 players – had less than two years of experience in the NFL when the season began. Fans likely will have little patience for that sort of reboot in back-to-back years.
Finish this sentence: NFL rules are made to be (a) broken….(b)strictly observed…(c) stretched, whenever possible.
Kelly’s liberal interpretation of NCAA rules has Oregon in hot water over a $25,000 payment to Will Lyles, the proprietor of a Texas “scouting service.” Lyles told Yahoo! Sports the payment was instead for his influence with players like LaMichael James. That would, of course, land Kelly and Oregon serious sanctions from the NCAA. Unless Haslam and Banner want the Cleveland version of BountyGate or SpyGate, they should want to know how fast and loose Kelly is willing to go off the field, not just on the field.
How many hits as a ball-carrier do you believe your quarterback can withstand and remain healthy enough to play?
Kelly loves to run the football, but his Oregon system depends on the threat of the run at quarterback to tilt the balance between blockers and tacklers in his favor. That’s averaged out to about 10 carries per-game for his QBs over Kelly’s four seasons. The Arizona Cardinals led the NFL in sacks allowed with 58, which might explain why they went through three quarterbacks this season. Robert Griffin III carried the football 120 times this year, suffering one concussion and a knee sprain that cost him a start. If Kelly’s quarterback averages 10 carries per-game, and his team finishes in the middle of the pack in sacks allowed with 36, that would total around 200 hits on his quarterback in one season. This year, the Philadelphia Eagles allowed the most hits on their quarterback with 118, causing both Michael Vick and Nick Foles to miss games due to injury.
What are the three most important things you require from us to build a consistent playoff team in Cleveland, and how quickly can you make that happen?
Banner and Haslam should be able to judge Kelly’s understanding of what he most values from this answer, and whether his demands are reasonable. If so, they will have a barometer to measure his progress, and a standard to hold him to should he fail.
Bruce Hooley hosts The Hooligans from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”
Email Bruce firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Bruce on Twitter @bhoolz
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