Browns Walk Away from Kelly

Dave Mitchell January 7, 2013 Comments Off on Browns Walk Away from Kelly

Whomever made the decision, Oregon’s Chip Kelly is heading back to the Ducks for a fifth season as head coach. After a weekend of being courted, wined and dined at the expense of the Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills, Kelly went back home with a bigger belly and wallet.

After spending 7 hours with the Browns on Friday, rumors persisted he was the man for the job and a signing was imminent. The only roadblock was Kelly wanted to keep his word and meet with the Eagles and Bills. That was the Browns biggest mistake if he indeed was their “man.”

The Bills noticed what was going on and had a short meeting with him Saturday morning, then turned their attention to Doug Maronne of Syracuse, who they hired early the next morning. That was the choice in this corner for the Cleveland job. Buffalo saw through the Kelly smoke and outwitted both Philly and Cleveland.

The Eagles, feeling the Browns and former team executive Joe Banner were getting the better of them, spent nine hours with Kelly Saturday night. That caused the head coach to postpone, then cancel a scheduled dinner meeting with Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam and Banner. So much for his word at keeping meetings.

From their the discussions turned sour and it led Haslam and Banner to leave Arizona and Kelly at the table, saying the coach had mixed feelings about leaving the college game for the pros. Today the Browns are back to the beginning of a coaching search.

But Kelly is back home, in Oregon, supposedly just a little richer. That’s because Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike and an alum of the school, supposedly has upped the ante to Kelly on the remaining five years of his deal. This might be a great move for Kelly right now, but what about his future? Definitely Kelly will never have to worry about money again. As far as career goals, Kelly might be left wanting.

Kelly and his agent David Dunn may have bluffed, and got called. It could be the NFL will now look twice at Kelly when another position opens up. After all this is the third team in two years Kelly has pulled this game with and eventually went back to Oregon.

Why would any owner speak with Kelly knowing he used Tampa Bay last year, then Cleveland and Philly this off season just to improve his position in Oregon. This might be a decision Kelly will have to live with for his career because NFL owners tend to have short fuses and long memories.

Kelly has gone 46-7 in four seasons in Oregon. Thus the interest by the NFL. He has proven to be a success after succeeding Mike Belotti. Yet Kelly, whom it is said has an ego larger than any stadium he has ever entered, now has spurned three teams and that might be one too many.

One thing that may quickly change Kelly’s mind about the NFL is an ongoing investigation by the NCAA for recruiting violations. The school paid a recruiting service to send them prospective players. It appears in at least one case, the school paid for the service to “steer” a player their way. Oregon made a $25,000 payment to Willie Lyles and Houston-based Complete Scouting Services in 2010. Lyles had a relationship with a player who committed to Oregon.

Kelly and the school have been cooperating with the NCAA on this inquiry, yet those discussion broke down in December. The penalties could be as high as a multiple year probation and bowl ban. That might make Kelly more amiable to a move into the NFL. Yet will the league be willing to listen then? And if Oregon does receive sanctions, and Kelly decides to leave, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has proven he is willing to carry over penalties from players and coaches. Meaning if Kelly does move up, would a team be willing to let him sit out a suspension while waiting?

It’s already surfacing around some league insiders that Kelly and his agent made a tactical error and are now forced to save face.  That is why the announcement was leaked Kelly wasn’t ready to leave the college game.  If he isn’t ready now, when will he be?

Maybe when the sanctions hit.


Dave Mitchell co-hosts with Mark Donahue the UST talk show “Ohio Baseball Weekly,” highlighting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The Show return in March, 2013.