PHOENIX — Like a southern belle, Chip Kelly will be entertaining several gentlemen callers from the NFL in the days following Oregon’s Jan. 3 date with Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
The team with the early edge in the recruiting seems to be the Cleveland Browns. The perennial cellar dwellers plan to meet with Kelly on Friday, according to ESPN and other sources. According to reports, Browns CEO Joe Banner intends to interview the 49-year-old coach right here in Arizona the day after the game, but the Browns owner hasn’t confirmed the interview. Cleveland fired coach Pat Shurmur earlier this week after he posted a 9-23 record in two seasons.
It’s common knowledge Kelly met with Tampa Bay last year and came close to accepting an NFL job. Browns safety and ex-Duck T.J. Ward said if the coach made the jump, he would bring a mindset NFL players would respect.
“He’s a great coach,” Ward told Yahoo. ”You can see what he’s doing at Oregon. I think he has what it takes to be successful in this league. Whoever they pick, Chip is a great option.”
Kelly has a 45-7 record at Oregon.
“‘He lets you do your job,” Ward said. “In college, he treated us like pros. I think that’s what players respect and appreciate about him.”
Other teams with head coaching vacancies that have been mentioned in connection to Kelly include the Philadelphia Eagles and the Buffalo Bills.
Kelly was asked at his press conference on Wednesday if he expected to be courted by the NFL and had little to say on the subject.
“I’m never surprised by anything,” Kelly said. ”I do not know what the future holds. I do know we have a football game tomorrow night, and I’m going to be there.”
Update (4:51 p.m.) - Kelly reportedly has three interviews lined up this week in the Phoenix area.
According to USA Today, the Eagles, Browns and Bills each will get a chance to pitch to the Ducks’ coach. While he appears to be headed to greener pastures, Kelly said Wednesday morning he doesn’t “know what the future holds.