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Browns would have to extend search if Chip Kelly chooses Philadelphia or a return to Oregon

Jan 05, 2013 -- 1:30pm

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By Tony Grossi

The Browns found themselves Sunday in the nervous position of waiting for Chip Kelly to decide between them, the Philadelphia Eagles and returning to the University of Oregon.

They were hoping to wrap up a deal with lawyers sitting in on a scheduled dinner meeting with Kelly in Arizona Saturday night, but they were put off when Kelly met for about nine hours with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles and Kelly broke up around midnight Eastern time without a deal. Reports said the Eagles would interview other candidates while in Arizona.

During their long wait, the Browns reportedly conducted a second interview with Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, who would be their most likely alternate choice if Kelly bolted for Philadelphia or headed back to Oregon. But Marrone decided on joining the Buffalo Bills on Sunday morning, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.

The Browns were expecting another meeting with Kelly on Saturday night. It is not known if it occurred.

Losing Kelly and his high-powered offense to Philadelphia would be a crushing blow to owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner.

Haslam already has been rejected by Nick Saban, who has informed Haslam he intends to stay at Alabama. The resultant pursuit of Kelly was seen as a high-stakes tug of war between Banner and his long-time friend and former boss in Philadelphia, Eagles owner Jeff Lurie. Banner left the Eagles in June after 19 years because he wanted more say-so in player personnel matters.

On Friday, ESPN Cleveland reported Kelly to the Browns was all but a done deal and that Haslam was “backing up the Brink’s truck” to sign up Kelly, 49. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought they had Kelly locked up a year ago, too, only to see Kelly change his mind the next day and return to Oregon.

It is not known where the Browns would turn if Kelly runs a read option back to Oregon or Philadelphia. Haslam and Banner have been camped down in Arizona since Tuesday conducting interviews in their first coaching search for the Browns. They also interviewed Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt and Penn State coach Bill O'Brien. O'Brien opted to stay at Penn State.

It would seem that making a last pitch to Saban would be unrealistic at this point. They could extend their search to assistant coaches on NFL playoff teams. Bruce Arians of Indianapolis, Josh McDaniels of New England, Mike McCoy of Denver and Greg Roman of San Francisco could be possibilities. McDaniels reportedly has informed teams he does not wish to be a candidate, however, and Arians, McCoy and Roman are candidates for other teams.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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