WFNY Roundtable: The Chip Kelly debacle and the ongoing search for a Browns head coach



Though the Cleveland Browns’ head coaching search officially began upon the ousting of one Pat Shurmur, it began to pick up substantial steam over the last 48 hours once Oregon’s Chip Kelly did his annual flirtation with a league he is obviously not cut out for. The rumor mill swirled, speculation was ripe, and the Browns left their temporary headquarters in Arizona without a captain for their ship. The result was one part chaos and the other part wonder — wonder surrounding what is to be learned, wonder surrounding what is yet to come. What follows is a roundtable discussion between members of WFNY. Do enjoy.

Scott: Alright. I’ll start things off. Jimmy Haslam III and Joe Banner set up shop in Arizona where there proceeded to interview a handful of qualified candidates, only to seemingly put all of their eggs in the Chip Kelly basket. Not only did Kelly leave without signing whatever offer was presented to him, but he’s going back to college — very Brett Favrian, in my opinion — and the Browns have flown home without a head coach in place while the candidate pool continues to lose depth. What should fans take away from the circus that was the last 48 hours?

Craig: Browns fans should take away that this is a fluid process and that this ownership group needs to interview real human beings and make real decisions about real people, as opposed to resumes and stat sheets.

Kirk: Browns fans should take away that it’s not a done deal until there’s a signature. They should realize that Haslam and Banner went hard after the sexiest name out there, and in the end (reportedly), they were not confident enough in his commitment to their situation. I can understand if that was the case. You can’t make a guy go if he doesn’t want to take the leap, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crushed by missing out on Kelly.

Andrew: I think one thing everyone needs to take away from this weekend is that when the media reports something is “close” to happening it doesn’t mean it’s definitely going to happen. There was so much speculation going on over things that weren’t being reported as news. Nobody reported Kelly had agreed to coach the Browns. Nobody on Saturday reported that he had agreed to coach the Eagles. But there was a lot of talk as if both of those things were true. So I think it was all a good reminder that reports on Twitter, even from good reporters, are often the tools and propaganda of teams and agents. Like Kirk said, nothing is done until an agreement is in place and paper is signed.

TD: To me, the takeaway is that we shouldn’t listen or believe any of these reports, whether it be by national or local media, because nobody knows what is true and what isn’t. Speculation gets everyone all excited and/or in a huff. Lets wait until we hear from BANNER OR HASLAM THEMSELVES and wait for the ink to dry before anything is “close” or a “done deal.” Haslam and Banner clearly were hot for Chip Kelly because they spent seven hours interviewing him. But none of us know what happened in that room except for the three of those men and Kelly’s agent. Whats done is done. Lets move on to the “reboot” of the search.

Ryan: Browns fans should come away from this weekend with the realization that Jimmy Haslam is not Jerry Jones, at least not yet.

 Jerry Jones has won Super Bowls, and successfully attracted big names in the past (Switzer, Johnson, and Parcells) while Jimmy Haslam has been an NFL owner a few months. Amidst the excitement that comes with Jimmy Haslam is the realization that turning the Browns into a hot destination may not happen over night. As with everything in the NFL, unfortunately “it’s a process.”

Scott: Well, this all seemingly goes back to the point shared by me and Craig that the team could have done a lot more to spell all speculation. The Eagles, while not being fully transparent, updated fans throughout the weekend via press release. Instead, Browns fans were left to wonder and fight amongst themselves. That said, what will be the takeaway from this weekend?

Kirk: What will fans take away? They’ll probably be venomous and negative about the new regime unless they can pull another big name out of their butts. Unless it’s Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, or Nick Saban, you’re going to have plenty of skepticism and naysayers regardless of who they hire until the team gets started in the fall and the new guy gets a chance to prove himself.

Craig: Yeah, I think the takeaway will largely be that the Browns failed to land the big fish and that will fuel fears of another Mangini/Shurmur-type candidate that seemingly nobody else was even trying to hire.

Rock: Agreed. I think fans will take away that this is just par for the course for the Browns. I think this weekend is just the type of weekend we’ve all come to expect from the Browns.

Scott: Amazing what a little new-age PR could do for a franchise that is desperate need to create goodwill with a fan base. On that same note, is the honeymoon phase with Haslam and Banner officially over in Cleveland?

Rock: I sure hope not. They didn’t do anything wrong. They interviewed a guy who was considered the hottest coaching candidate, and they ultimately decided not to offer him the job. Who knows what really happened this weekend in Arizona. But Chip Kelly returning to the Ducks shouldn’t be a surprise. Haslam and Banner’s weekend is only disappointing (whether you wanted Kelly or not) because we allowed ourselves to believe reports that a deal was close. We allowed ourselves to think that for once the Browns were getting their first choice to coach the team. But that’s on us, not on Haslam and Banner. They did their part in interviewing Kelly and they reacted to the information they had, which is certainly a lot more information than any of us have.

Kirk: They’ll get ripped for this a bit, but I don’t think the honeymoon is truly over for Haslam/Banner until the team gets off to a slow start next season. At 1-3 or 1-4, the pressure would start to mount.

TD: The Honeymoon isn’t over yet and it won’t ever be with Haslam. Banner is another story. I for one don’t really trust him as a true “football man” and if he ends up bringing in Mike Lombardi as his personnel chief, the honeymoon will be over the minute it is announced. Nobody in this town trusts Lombardi and he has given them no reason to.

Ryan: The honeymoon is not over. Let’s wait and see who they end up hiring before we rush to judgement. Although Chip was the sexy pick, there’s other fish in the sea…they just better find the right fish.

Craig: No. It may feel like it right now, but if they hire someone who can come in and convince Browns fans that he’s going to try to win as many games as possible right away with a young, talented roster Banner and Haslam will be fine. Also, avoiding the words build, re-build, process, etc. will help greatly.

Scott: Great point with the keywords, Craig. Haslam and Banner’s press conference from last week left a lot of fans feeling confident that these two men had the (candid) conviction to get this job done — that they’d find their man sooner than later and we would all be on our collective way a team which is now preparing for the upcoming draft. Instead, we’re still spinning our wheels a bit. What, given all of this, is the ideal next step? Kidnap Nick Saban?

TD: The ideal next step for me is not that far off – wait until the National Title game is over, fly to Alabama, and show Nick Saban a blank check and tell him to name your price. When/if that fails, continue to interview as many guys as you can. There are still a lot of great candidates out there, i.e. Mike McCoy, Bruce Arians, etc.

Craig: The ideal next step for me would be to slow it down now unless they’re really sold on Whisenhunt. There are going to be more candidates revealing themselves from these playoffs and potentially even the National Championship game. The immediacy of pitching to Chip Kelly was obvious because there was competition for his services, but now if they rush into the second candidate they’ll truly look desperate.

Kirk: The ideal next step is to just, to borrow the phrase, reboot and expand the search. I don’t want them deciding between only Ken Whisenhunt and Ray Horton, if those are the only two still in the running they’ve in fact interviewed. I would like to see them talk to at least 2-3 more candidates, including Bruce Arians, Mike McCoy, and Greg Roman. I would still heavily lean toward an offense mind and make my decision between those three I mentioned and Whisenhunt.

Rock: Ask Doug Marrone if he’s sure he wants to coach the Bills.

Scott: No kidding. I’m still scratching my head over that one and I wasn’t exactly sold on Marrone as a candidate…

Rock: Okay, that’s not going to happen. I would like to see the Browns expand their search. Find a young, smart coordinator out there who has ideas how to innovate and come up with ways to beat the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals.

Scott: So you guys would prefer the next Andy Reid or Mike Tomlin? A guy seemingly plucked out of thin air? Will the fan base have the patience for this?

Ryan: Yes, they need to not panic — think outside the box. Nobody knows if Chip Kelly would have been a success, but he is someone that would have brought excitement to Cleveland. Don’t rush to snatch up one of the names everyone else is looking at, do some homework, and get a guy with a high upside. We all know there is no such thing as a safe hire. You’re gambling regardless who you choose so you might as well hire the coach with the biggest potential payout.

Scott: It will certainly be an interesting few days then. I think we are largely dealing with one heck of a dichotomy — one half of the fan base wants a big splash like Gruden or Saban, the other wants the next big name, one that will take a gamble married with fan trust and patience (two qualities that are hard to come by these days). Hopefully, come this time next week, we’re talking about the team’s new direction. This seems like the best next ideal step of all.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I would have thought something would have been learned from that whole Cavaliers hiring a certain Michigan State head coach but I guess not. 😉

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Resistance is futile!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m shocked just like Zimmer that other teams don’t talk to him. This was mentioned Saturday during the Texans-Bengals game in fact. I think he should have been interviewed.

    As for the rest other then Whisenhunt and possibly Lovie Smith the rest don’t exactly thrill me largely because again, it’s another repeat of basically giving a young guy his first head coaching gig. I realize a majority of the candidates fall into this category but I just can’t stand the possibility of going this route, again.

  • Scott @ WFNY

    Reading is overrated.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    HEY as commeter that’s just plain rude mister! In fact I’m a little hurt if I may say so.

  • mgbode

    should have been? he wasn’t available per NFL rules until Sunday (as part of a wild card team. teams with byes can have their assistants interview during the bye week). still quite a chance that Zimmer is on the list and we are going to interview him this week.

    and, I just want the ‘right’ guy, so I don’t care if he has been a HC or whatever. as long as it works :)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Stop…stop…it’s like watching mom and dad (doesn’t apply to me) fight. Can’t we all just get along? Hug it out u b*^%&es! But seriously WFNY is about the authors first after all they create the work. Us readers/followers/commentators are simply the icing on the cake well some of us the rest well it goes with the territory.

  • mgbode

    first, a big part of why the comment section has been successful is that the writers are willing to continue to add to their anchor story in them (explaining what they meant, diving deeper into the topic, exploring new ideas, etc.).

    as for what made the site successful, I think the fact that the site provides a safe haven for commenting (monitored without people just yelling obscenities at each other) is a piece of the puzzle. that allows the commenters with ideas to present more easily.

    a bigger piece of the puzzle is the site layout:
    1. becoming a singular bookmark for most good sites on Cleveland sports through WWAW along with the site lists
    2. having differing opinions (and styles) on the anchor pieces on each of the major teams and easily accessible
    3. more recent addition of the headline section for topical reports

    but the largest piece of that puzzle is undoubtedly the anchor pieces themselves. Jon’s breakdown of the MLB CBA and how it will affect small market teams is still the standout series IMO, but the film breakdowns, the in depth opinion pieces on all sports, the forays into the draft prospect breakdowns, etc. A ton of good information here is what drives people to keep coming back.

  • mgbode

    off topic tangent: JK (or Mike), does Ori comment over at CF? I owe him a debt on the O/U for the Browns wins this year and I want to settle it.

  • B-bo

    For the record, I don’t believe that this was, in reality, any sort of “debacle” or the like. I think they went hard after the guy they wanted and, whether it was his reluctance that scared them off or their inability to sell him on the Browns, it didn’t work out. I liked the aggressiveness (despite the fact that I didn’t like the target of that aggressiveness) if nothing else. That said, it certainly doesn’t do the team any favors in the PR department, because it won’t play that way. Scoff at that if you like, but this franchise does have a perception issue, both among its fans and in the national media. Even the most unbiased among football fans must admit that national pundits target the Browns in a negative light with regularity, deservedly or not, if they even mention the team at all. And the crushing Cleveland psychosis of “doomed to fail”, “always expecting the worst” fostered by painful and public failures borders on suffocating. And this is not the same “woe is us–but hey, look at us” attitude of Cubs and pre-2000s Red Sox fans. And it’s not simple angst. It exists almost at the cellular level. And the national opinion only serves to worsen the psychosis (see Twitter anytime anyone says anything remotely negative about the city or its teams–folks flip out and get defensive. Then, when we’re among ourselves, we gloomily agree). So the PR does mean something on both levels. The story that fits the narrative of both is “hey, look–the Browns failed again. INEPT, SAME OLD SAME, BLAH BLAH BLAH.” So yes, the team could have done some things differently to attempt spin control, and probably should have. Honestly, though, I don’t know if it would have made a difference, as the media was almost certain to go the route of the old narrative, and the fans would almost inevitably follow. As has been said by many here before, winning is the only thing that will change any of this. But expect a good deal more of this default to negativity by all involved until that happens.

  • Harv 21

    this comment was sincere – stop the thumbs-downing. I was going to email a Chicago friend about Lovie but EJ above made that unnecessary.

  • Jeremy Humbert

    When you truely love a team, and rumors are all you have… then give me rumor updates every 30 minutes, and I will remain interested but I generally keep from buying into them until some says that “it” actually happened. I like headlines for that reason. Who on here really wants to read about some of our beloved players rooting for their respective college teams in bowl games… I like the players, but am more interested in the team, and its direction.
    I continue to hold out some hope through the misery of being a Browns fan for the past 30 years, and sometimes a carrot dangling in front of me is all I need to get me through the day…

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Gotcha… you may very well be right on many of those points, particularly about QB development. I went back to my buddy to see what his thoughts are now that it’s been a while since Schotty was in NJ:

    I think he has an ability to develop quarterbacks and he does have some innovative twists on traditional plays. He was the first OC I ever saw to become a offensive chameleon .. there’s some real value to that. When the Jets didn’t have an impressive running game in 2006, he turned his offense into a shapeshifter using west-coast philosophies to move the chains as if he was running the ball. When Brett Favre came to town, he threw out his playbook for the sake of the QB. When Sanchez arrived he agreed with Rex to run the ball the highest number of times in the league to cover over for his rookie.

    But he has his cliches too. He loves the F-Back TE. He loves motion. He loves the use of gadgety reverses, end arounds, option plays … stuff that can work beautifully, but can also be brutal when it doesn’t. Schottenheimer exalts multiplicity over uncompromising execution.

    Still, he implemented the wildcat successfully in New York with two players (Brad Smith and Leon Washington). He did prop up some quarterbacks who were wanting, but he never had a top offense in his five plus years in new york, with chad pennington, with brett favre, with mark sanchez … none of them ever were great.

    What bothers me the most about Brian Scottenheimer is his brazen unwillingness to do the conventional thing but to do the “clever” thing. He’ll pass the ball on 3rd and goal from the two when he’s got Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold to run behind. He’ll waste three plays over five series to set up a tendency to later break and maybe get 15 yards from. Was the squeeze worth the juice?

    He’s a classic overthinker. By the time his time was over in NY, we routinely called him Vezzinni from the Princess Bride.

    He has his merits, but he thinks he’s smarter than he is … which can become maddening over long periods of time.

  • Craig Lyndall

    My premise yesterday was that the Kelly news cycle was pretty predictable and probably pretty transparent. The Browns, by saying they wouldn’t comment and by not having a go-to buddy in the media, basically said they were going to sit it out. I thought that was to their detriment.

    That’s not necessarily a defense of the news cycle anymore than I would defend people getting too drunk at Browns games. It’s just wholly predictable. The Browns have policies and plans in place regarding drunk fans. Their P.R. plan (or non-plan) during the coaching search wasn’t a plan that I found to be effective.

    But I really don’t want to fight anymore. When I wrote that article yesterday, I had ZERO idea that it was going to spark such a contentious debate including lots of WFNY outsiders. I like my fun, healthy debates with you and Harv and anyone else who chooses to hang around without getting angry and nasty. On a post that blows up like the one yesterday it puts me in battle mode because I feel like everyone’s attacking me. If I hadn’t had a chance to talk it over with Brian last night on the podcast, I might have gone nuclear in those comments and I would have hated it later.

    That’s another point to this whole P.R. debate for me. This Browns thing? Yeah, it was supposed to be fun. I understand that Haslam and Banner have goals and they don’t want commenting to get in the way of those goals, but radio silence isn’t all that entertaining. I’d offer that the only thing that is just as good as not saying anything is saying lots and lots of things all the time. If they commented on everything generically people would have just as little insight into their actual thoughts.

    Make it a game.

    Saturday night, Haslam could have tweeted, “What does ‘close’ even mean? Contracts are either drawn up and signed or they’re not. I’m starving! LOL”


  • mgbode

    those are solid points. but, I do not want him to be the OC. I want him to be the HC w/ an OC that calls the plays. So, he would be helping create the gameplan and system (which is great for that shape-shifting), but not calling the plays (circumventing the overthinking). Obviously, we’d likely have those trick plays and shifts in the system.

    also, one point of contention. Brett Favre was having a very good year until he hurt his biceps (causing the collapse and Mangini firing).

    take a look, I don’t even have to tell you (you’ll see it easily) but he hurt his biceps near the end of the Titan game in week11:

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Should have been as in prior years but given the fact the Browns have interviewed so many I would expect/hope Zimmer would be scheduled.

    As for the “right guy” everybody hopes that happens which is probably why this is such a hot topic. Other then head coach the only other position that draws almost as much debate is quarterback. As far as my feelings go I just feel this team would be better off if they had a HC with previous experience and some sort of tangible track record as opposed to another first time promoted coordinator or worse collehe coach. Obviously I don’t know the dynamics off the field but with the personalities of both Haslam and Banner whoever is hired whether it’s HC or GM/Head of Personnel those people better be well rounded.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Speaking of Oriwonkonobi where is the dude? I thought he’d be typing away given all that has happened.

  • mgbode

    my point with the “right guy” rhetoric is that I don’t want anyone to box themselves in with the thinking it has to be a previous HC or an offensive guy, or a big-time college guy with new ideas to try out.

    I don’t care. I am sick of thinking there is a recipe for picking a HC because there doesn’t seem to be one (Tomlin vs. Belichick w/ Pats vs. Payton vs. Harbaugh with 49ers – all very, very different backgrounds). What I do know is that we need a strong leader that the players and really everyone in the organization will believe in and work as hard as they can to help achieve the goal we all strive towards.

    So, if we hire the HS coach from Arkansas that refuses to punt, then I’m okay with that as long as he demonstrates he can lead us. Or if we re-hire and old coach w/ some HC experience (Arians?). He can be young or old. He can be offensive or defensive. College or pro experience. I just don’t care.

    I have my preferences of who I think can be that guy and have laid them out. But, I am open-minded towards more (and don’t take this to be I won’t be critical of ‘any’ hire as I will be as warranted).

    I just want the “right guy” :)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Then I think from my perspective, I might be okay with giving him a shot as head coach if he hires a good OC/play-caller. My gut tells me that he won’t relinquish the play-calling duties though… I think (like most coaches) he has too much of an ego to let that go.

  • mgbode

    Mr. Kanicki had a #freeori stamp on some of his comments a few weeks ago, so that is why I was reaching out to him here on his whereabouts.

  • mgbode

    I had a thought about that over the holidays. Shurmur said that play-calling is the “fun part of the job.” I agree. However, a HC job is all about the responsibility of the team. If you just want to have fun, then you need to stay as a co-ordinator.

    also, my coin toss just said he would give up those duties :)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    OIC I missed that but was just curious myself. There are those commenters who you notice missing and then there are those who you wish were missing! 😉

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Haha… well, either way I do think it’s probably smart for a first-time HC to delegate those duties. As we saw with Shurmur, acting as a HC and OC and play-caller is a ridiculous burden for a guy just learning how to control a team and ration his timeouts and so on.

  • mgbode

    yes, agreed.

  • Harv 21

    I did think a few of your responses yesterday were uncharacteristically combative, Craig. Your comment here made me realize you’ve probably never had that much of a negative reaction to a post (almost on par with Scott’s “LeBron as Bin Laden” a few years back). I wouldn’t be able to post daily stories and withstand the slings and arrows – I get aggravated by an unjust thumbs down to a comment.

    It’s important that we readers remember you guys expend a ton of time/energy at no cost to us and that the least we can do is keep our tone civil (even about the Browns). And you guys should remember that some emotional reader blowback is the price of popularity. I do know that sometimes the tone of comments gets sharp because we loyal readers feel a special relationship with WFNY and perceive a stake in the quality of the content, too. That may feel presumptious to you, Rick, Scott and the gang, given that you do all the work, but take it as the highest compliment. Meanwhile, we’ll try not to be disrespectful about the free cheese.

  • JR

    Why the fan obsession with Saban? Does no one remember his stint with Miami?

  • @TheDeePagel

    I think it has to do with the fact that the NFL is always about what have you done lately. Yes, Saban ruined his Miami chance, but what is fresh in our minds? The back-to-back championships with a possible three-peat tonight.

    That alone makes fans salivate.

  • mgbode

    also, a more complete picture of Saban’s Miami years:

    04 before Saban = 4-12
    05 w/ Saban = 9-7
    06 w/ Saban = 6-10
    07 post-Saban = 1-15

    in addition, Saban pulled hard for Drew Brees, but was over-ruled by team doctors and ownership.

  • jimkanicki

    lol – he has a twitter account. havent seen him on frowns.

  • jimkanicki

    (im good.)
    (craig/rick/scott/andrew/jon –holy crap, ive heard from all of you today– we good?)

  • mgbode

    twitter. hmmm. i’ll have to see if my account still works (got one to follow BW during the 2007 trade deadline and haven’t used it since).

    thanks for the info.

  • thepaledragon

    It’s cool if headlines bring people to this site, and I enjoy being able to debate or discuss the various reports with the fans here at this site. But I think I speak for most readers when I say I most value the original content that all the writers here provide (like your stat-based work, Jon, for example).

  • Craig Lyndall


  • MrCleaveland

    Then I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen of the WFNY community, that James Haslam the Third is NOT GUILTY of committing debacleationment in the first degree or to any degree. Furhtermore, nor has Joseph Banner been found to have debacleized in any way.

    The defense rests.

  • rick grayshock


  • mgbode

    “The defense rests”

    they wouldn’t have been able to if we had hired Chip!

  • Wheel

    Since we’ve taken our swings and missed with the big boys, I think Haslam and Banner need to re-set the org. chart. Hire the best GM out there first (Tom Gamble), then hire a coach. If we can’t hire the top coach candidates, let’s at least go for the best GM.

  • Porckchopexpress

    For what its worth porckchop agrees, he probably should have stopped short by at least 1 paragraph and 2 Sam Smith Winter Welcomes. The hardest part about riding a high horse is getting down.

  • Scott @ WFNY


  • Scott @ WFNY

    We find the most value in it as well, which is why we aim to provide as much of it as possible — oftentimes five or six feature posts in a given day. The headlines, as Jon referenced, allow us to keep the discussion going during times when we aren’t afforded the free time to churn out 1,000 words of well-thought material. Glad you see the value in both.

  • Deano

    can Urban Meyer coach the Bucks on Saturdays and the Brownies on Sundays?

  • jimkanicki

    and bam: 13 likes now. well done.

  • Garry_Owen

    I CANNOT believe I missed this wheelhousery. Is the signal broken?

  • mgbode

    the signal isn’t used today Garry. it’s expected you just show up on Mondays :)

  • mgbode

    sort of surprised noone filled in my missing someone. i left it off on purpose.
    he’s 63yo and owns college football and I really hope Haslam takes his talents from South Beach tomorrow.

  • mgbode

    what if Haslam just paid Chip to be the decoy to keep the press off of Saban until Tuesday?
    I’m watching for Haslam on the Bama sidelines sipping sweet tea!

  • Garry_Owen

    If Notre Dame doesn’t have to, I don’t have to.

  • mgbode

    i said it was expected. didn’t say you had to. people expected ND to at least show up. heck, Vegas only had them as 9.5pt dogs. seemed big at the time and all.

  • Garry_Owen

    Didn’t you know? Today’s an Irish holiday.

  • mgbode

    so that’s why their cheeks are so rosy.