And I have been whining that there hasn’t been much to write about…..
Here I was, sitting in the Kansas City airport, waiting for a flight home, perusing Twitter, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen drops a bomb of atomic proportions: The Philadelphia Eagles will name Oregon’s Chip Kelly as their next head coach.
I was going to try and not be reactionary to the news, but I just can’t. Let us recap what has happened:
New Browns bossman Jimmy Haslam and his handpicked CEO Joe Banner can tell you all day long that Kelly wasn’t there first choice, but it was clear that he was. The two went to Arizona, met with him for seven hours plus a two-hour dinner, the day after Kelly’s Ducks dispatched the Kansas State Wildcats in the Fiesta Bowl. There was no doubt – their full court press was on. We were led to believe that Haslam was not going to be outbid by anyone for Kelly’s services. As I wrote last week, Haslam and Banner had all of their eggs in Kelly’s basket, thought they had him, yet left Arizona without a deal in place. Kelly went on to meet for another full day interview with Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman, who is all that remains from the Reid/Banner era front office. Like with the Browns, the Eagles were reportedly rebuffed by Kelly and his agent and had to go back to the drawing board.
Just 10 days ago, Kelly was returning to Oregon, putting his NFL dreams on hold, and went back out recruiting. Over the last week, the speculation was that Chip was holding out for the New England job, once Bill Belichick retires and moves up to the front office. The Browns went on to “reboot” their search because they had no plan C in place (Plan B was Penn State’s Bill O’Brien). They interviewed as many candidates as they could and almost out of nowhere, Rob Chudzinski jumped to the head of the class and got the job.
That whole Chudzinski “process” took 48 hours, tops.
It seemed as though Haslam and Banner were tired of waiting and wanted to get a head coach in place as soon as they could. They wanted to get a staff in place and start another rebuild (fun!). I’m sure the Browns brass was intrigued by Chud’s offensive mind and reputation. The fact that he was going to be potentially bringing Norv Turner with him as his offensive coordinator was probably a big feather in Chud’s cap, but the entire thing seemed rushed.
Less than a week after Haslam and Banner chose Chudzinski, Kelly completely reversed course, blindsided an entire football nation, and is headed to Philly.
If Kelly was still in play for the NFL, which we now know he was, what was the big hurry to grab Chudzinski, who hadn’t even received an interview request from any other team besides the Browns? Yesterday, the Eagles were interviewing the likes of Seahawks DC Gus Bradley and former Ravens coach Brian Billick. Was it all a smoke screen by Lurie and Roseman? Despite reports to the contrary, Kelly was the guy Lurie wanted all along. So instead of making a quick coaching hire, the Eagles continued their interview process while Lurie more than likely checked back in one more time with Kelly to see if he could persuade him to come on board. We will know soon how it all happened, but whatever Lurie and Roseman did worked, because today, Chip Kelly, offensive innovator with the scheme that many college and pro teams see as the future, is the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
This has to feel sweet for Roseman who was getting torched for this coaching search, most notably by CBS’s Jason LaCanfora. For Lurie, who stood by Andy Reid for 14 years, he has transitioned from Banner to Roseman and now has Kelly to slide into Reid’s roll. Beating Banner out for the coach he had at the top of his list is just the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae. The pieces the Eagles have offensively in RB Lesean McCoy, WR’s DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and the potential to keep Michael Vick in the read-option (something that was talked about if Kelly had come to Cleveland), should translate well in Kelly’s system. The Eagles also have tons of cap space and a younger roster than you might think. Sure, they have issues defensively, but Kelly doesn’t seem to be that concerned; he took the job.
Now to the not so fun part.
Let’s get it out of the way: Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner were schooled by Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman.
It was one thing when Kelly spurned all NFL suitors. But when the Eagles figure out a way to land the guy the Browns desperately wanted as the new face of the franchise, the splashy hire that would have excited the masses, Haslam and Banner look foolish.
I received this tweet just after the Kelly news came down that epitomizes the malaise of Browns fans:
@wfnytdAmateur hour continues in Berea. Browns busy selling naming rights and chging uniform design. Eagles are busy getting our guy as HC
— MLS (@mshagrin) January 16, 2013
Would it have killed them to wait a little longer to name Chudzinski the head coach? It is not as if other teams were going to be stealing him away. We won’t ever know if Haslam lobbed one last call to Kelly to see if he could change his mind. We also don’t know what went on when Kelly spent nine hours with Haslam and Banner. It is very possible that Kelly was turned off by the Browns plan. Banner has a reputation that he can be tough to work with. While he had great success in Philadelphia, it was not as a football man, it was as a contract negotiator and team president. He’s never had his hands on the football side the way he does here in Cleveland. We won’t know the details of Kelly’s Philadelphia deal yet, but he obviously had more of a comfort with the Roseman/Lurie structure than he did with the Banner/Haslam plan. It’s also very possible and likely that Kelly saw McCoy/Jackson/Maclin/Vick and compared that to Richardson/Little/Gordon/QB he had to bring in and felt a lot better about the Philly skill players.
I think what bothers me the most was that Haslam and Banner talked a big game and not only didn’t deliver, but were played by the guy they wanted so badly. We all expected more. Had they hired Kelly, the hype would have been justified. Instead, we are settling for Rob Chudzinski. But we also all need to realize what we are, as I wrote last week. The Browns franchise has great fans and storied history, but they haven’t been relevant since the Bernie Kosar era, which is now over 20 years ago.
This has nothing to do with Chud. He could end up being great here and I sincerely hope he does, but you just know what is going to happen. It’s the only way things work here in Cleveland. Kelly’s offense will be the new wave in the NFL and he will be a huge hit. The Eagles will reap all the benefits and be lauded for landing him. You just know that is going to happen.
I know, the Cleveland in me is coming out, but these things always end up going against us. We have Belichick when he is figuring out how to be a head coach. We have Bill Cowher as our special teams coach and our owner thinks he is “too young” and “not ready” to be a head coach when the job opens up in 1989. We draft Tim Couch one year after the #1 pick is Peyton Manning. The Browns end up with the fourth pick in the draft the year Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are clear #1 and #1a franchise type QBs.
I can’t go on.
All I know today is that the alleged next great offensive genius is the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, 10 days after he told the Browns (and the Eagles) he was going back to Oregon while the Browns changed course and quickly hired an offensive coordinator who wasn’t interviewed by any other NFL team.
As the great Frank Costanza once said: “Serenity Now.”