Browns circle back in search of coach


Browns circle back in search of coach

CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns have circled back in their coaching search after a wild weekend out West.

Now into their second week looking for the team's sixth full-time coach since 1999, Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are assessing the candidates they've already interviewed and setting up meetings with others on their radar.

On Sunday, the Browns eliminated Oregon coach Chip Kelly as a candidate because of his hesitancy about jumping to the pros, a person with knowledge of the team's meeting with the 49-year-old told the Associated Press. The Browns questioned whether Kelly ``was committed to coming to the NFL,'' said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the search.

The Browns met for seven hours in Arizona on Friday with Kelly, and were closing in on a deal when he agreed to keep scheduled meetings with Buffalo and Philadelphia.

At the end of a whirlwind 48 hours, the Browns backed off from Kelly, who has decided to return to Oregon, two people with knowledge of his plans told the AP.

It's the second time in two years Kelly has flirted with leaving college before choosing to stay with his supersonic Ducks, who have gone 46-7 with a high-scoring, warp-speed offense he designed. He has taken the school to four straight BCS bowls.

At this point, there doesn't appear to be any front runner to fill Cleveland's coaching vacancy. Last week, the Browns are known to have interviewed former Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and Penn State coach Bill O'Brien.

Marrone, who had two meetings with the Browns and was believed to be high on their initial list, was introduced as Buffalo's coach Monday and O'Brien returned to Happy Valley.

The Browns could be expanding their search beyond U.S. borders.

The team is expected to interview Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, whose resume includes extensive time as an NFL offensive assistant, most recently with the Miami Dolphins in 2004. The 56-year-old has been with Montreal since 2008, leading the Alouettes to two CFL titles in his five seasons.

Trestman coached Cleveland's quarterbacks in 1988 and was the team's offensive coordinator in 1989.

The Browns have not scheduled an interview with Trestman.

Haslam said last week that he would be willing to wait a month to find the ``right person'' to coach the Browns, who fired Pat Shurmur last week after a 5-11 season. Cleveland has lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons - the second-longest run of futility in league history.

Haslam is determined to find a strong leader to take over his team, bring stability to the franchise and win championships. There's a chance the billionaire businessman will try to convince Alabama's Nick Saban to come to Cleveland and be that guy.

The 61-year-old Saban, who will lead the Crimson Tide in Monday night's BCS title game against Notre Dame, went 15-17 in two years with the Dolphins before taking over at Alabama. There's been speculation Saban would consider returning to the pros - for the right job.

``I don't have any unfinished business in the NFL,'' Saban said at Saturday's BCS title game media day. ``It's not something I'm concerned about. It's not even anything I want to do.''

Saban worked in Cleveland as an assistant under Bill Belichick from 1991-94.

There's another Kelly who could draw the Browns' interest - Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly.

Kelly insisted he's not thinking about anything other than beating `Bama, but that could change once the season ends, and especially if he's hoisting a Waterford crystal football over his head amid a blizzard of confetti.

Kelly knows NFL teams may come knocking on his door, but he insisted he's content coaching the nation's No. 1 team.

``I think from my perspective I've got the best job in the country, NFL, college, high school, whatever,'' he said. ``I just look at the place that I'm at and thankful for the opportunity that I have.''

Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is believed to be among the candidates the Browns intend to interview.

The 60-year-old Arians remained in a Baltimore hospital on Monday after being admitted with an undisclosed illness before the Colts' playoff loss to the Ravens. Arians did not coach in the game after suffering flu-like symptoms a few hours before kickoff. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said tests on Arians have been negative.

The Colts went 9-3 under Arians, who served as the Colts' head coach after Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. The Colts have already given permission to Chicago and Philadelphia to speak with Arians about their coaching vacancies. He was an assistant with the Browns (2001-03) and Haslam, a former minority owner with Pittsburgh, is familiar with him from his seasons working as the Steelers offensive coordinator (2007-11).

It's possible the Browns may approach other A-list candidates, including former NFL coaches Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher.

However, neither has given any indication they're ready to leave cushy jobs as TV analysts and return to the coaching grind. Gruden is under contract to stay on Monday Night Football, but his name always surfaces during the offseason and has long been attached to the Browns because of his Ohio roots.

Haslam was forced to deny a report in November that he tried to entice Gruden to take the coaching job at the University of Tennessee with the promise of an ownership stake in the Browns. Haslam is a graduate of the school and a booster.

The Browns also must hire a general manager or player personnel director, but won't do that until they find their next coach.


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