Nov 26, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly during the fourth quarter of a NFL game on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Detroit won 45-14. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns don’t currently have an opening for a head coach, but does the availability of Chip Kelly change the equation?
The news that the Philadelphia Eagles have parted ways with head coach Chip Kelly sent waves crashing through the NFL community on Tuesday night.
The question now is, will one of those waves sweep over the Cleveland Browns?
If Kelly decides he wants to remain in the NFL rather than go back to college, it would seem likely that he will have more than one team giving him a call.
That list starts with the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins, teams that are currently employing an interim head coach and are the most likely to make a change once the regular season comes to a close on Sunday.
Kelly may be interested in reuniting with quarterback Marcus Mariota in Tennessee, or like the idea of taking his offensive system to a warm weather city like Miami and working with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
But there is a second level of teams that could potentially be interested in Kelly, which is where the Browns come in.
While owner Jimmy Haslam hasn’t officially made a decision on the future of head coach Mike Pettine, you would have to think with just one game remaining to be played there is little that Pettine can do to change Haslam’s mind, either for the good or the bad.
The same can probably be said for Chuck Pagano with the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Tomsula with the San Francisco 49ers, Jim Caldwell with the Detroit Lions, Jason Garrett with the Dallas Cowboys and Mike McCoy with the San Diego Chargers.
With Kelly now on the market that equation could change, however, meaning there are several owners who may not be able to resist the urge to make a change in an attempt to land Kelly.
The problem, especially as it relates to the Browns, is that even if you want to make a pitch for Kelly you need to have a firm backup plan in place in case you miss out. And if Haslam was already planning to keep Pettine in part because he wasn’t confident he could land a better replacement, the risk of getting into a competition for Kelly may not be to Haslam’s liking.
Of those teams that currently have a coach but may consider making a change to woo Kelly, each have some good selling points:
- The Colts would presumably be at the top of the list because of quarterback Andrew Luck, who while not as athletic as Mariota, should have no trouble executing Kelly’s offensive system. The Colts can also offer the allure of playing their home games in a dome and going against the weak AFC South six times a year.
- The Cowboys would offer the biggest stage and the opportunity for Kelly to stick it to the Eagles twice a year. The drawback is that quarterback Tony Romo isn’t getting any younger and Kelly may not want to enter into a situation where he will be searching for a quarterback in a couple of years.
- If Kelly believes he can rehabilitate Colin Kaepernick’s career, then the 49ers may be attractive to him.
- The Chargers are in a similar situation as the Cowboys with quarterback Philip Rivers closer to the end of his career than the beginning. But if the Chargers move to Los Angeles, Kelly may like the idea of coaching on such a big stage.
- The Lions can offer a respectable quarterback in Matthew Stafford and, like the Colts, playing in a dome.
Which brings us to Cleveland.
The Browns were reportedly “very close” to hiring Kelly back in 2013, although Haslam and then team CEO Joe Banner were stood up at a dinner meeting in Arizona because Kelly was interviewing with the Eagles.
After taking a shot and missing last time, Haslam would have to put aside his ego to make another play for Kelly.
The Browns can offer Kelly a high draft pick in the next draft, plenty of cap space for a roster makeover and the potential to work with quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Kelly recruited Manziel to Oregon so he could still be an attraction, or Kelly could look at the high draft pick as a chance to select his quarterback and mold him into his offensive system, something he did not have the opportunity to do in Philadelphia.
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Kelly went 26-21 during his three seasons with the Eagles, including consecutive 10-win seasons in his first two years in charge and a division title in 2013.
The problems came when Kelly gained total control of personnel as Kelly the general manager did everything he could to ruin Kelly the coach.
That would be the biggest question facing the Browns if they were to go after Kelly. Haslam can hire Kelly as head coach, but there is no way he can give Kelly the same level of power he had in Philadelphia.
Kelly may say during the interview process that he is OK with just being the head coach, but you never know what would happen once he got into the building. And with the Browns not having the strongest organizational structure as it is, it wouldn’t be that hard for Kelly to pull off a power play if he so desired.
The Browns were already facing several questions heading into the offseason.
Adding Chip Kelly to the mix just makes it that much more interesting.