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The Suburbanite
  • Haslam, Banner will take blame if Kelly doesn't work out

  • With Chip Kelly poised to be the coach charged with turning the Browns into a winner, Jimmy Haslam says all the blame if the grand plan falls through goes to himself and Joe Banner.

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  • “We’re going into the thing open-minded,” Browns CEO Joe Banner said Monday.
    By Friday, Chip Kelly was close to being an open and closed case. The suspicion was that the Browns head coaching search has looked like a Duck for quite some time.
    NFL Network was the first to report Friday that the interview with the four-year Oregon head coach quickly turned into a job offer, and that Kelly was on the verge of signing with the Browns.
    “We’re not going into this with one person in mind,” Haslam said Monday.
    Maybe so, but if Kelly wasn’t A No. 1 for some time now, that’s only because the Browns needed other options in case the head Duck said no.
    Haslam has laid down a monster bet on Kelly, a 49-year-old collegiate offensive whiz whose most notable NFL experience is having hung out with Bill Belichick.
    Kelly has never coached in the “The League.” It could be a tough nut to crack. When Butch Davis jumped from a head coaching job at the University of Miami to the Browns in 2001, he talked at great length of NFL snobbery as to how college success doesn’t translate to the highest level.
    Davis had a flawed Browns run, to say the least, but he led the team to its only playoff game of the expansion era. A notable difference between Davis and Kelly: The latter was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire before he became a star at Oregon; Davis was a Super Bowl defensive coordinator with the Cowboys before he made a name at Miami.
    Haslam, a new owner who himself has been “a college guy” (Tennessee), basically is betting on himself and his CEO.
    “I think everybody will know next year and the year after that if we’re making progress or not,” Haslam said. “Our goal is to create a consistent winning team. There are lots of examples of that in the NFL and if we don’t do it, it’s the two guys up here’s fault (himself and Banner). But I think we can do that.”
    Kelly interviewed with Haslam and Banner about 12 hours after beating Kansas State in Thursday’s Fiesta Bowl.
    His next audition will be for Browns fans, who must be convinced a creative offense that was deadly to most Ducks opponents can work against the Steelers.
    Banner proactively addressed that issue Monday, saying:
    “There is always some stealing from college into the pros, and some stealing going in the other direction. You probably can’t just take a pure NFL system and put it in college and have it work, and you probably can’t just take a purely clean current college system and put it in the pros and have it work.
    Page 2 of 3 - “But that doesn’t mean there are things that the right coach couldn’t integrate from both systems that could work very well at this level.”
    Kelly and Belichick have traded ideas about what works in the NFL and in college, and vice versa.
    The Kelly hire, if the details get worked out, will play to mixed reviews.
    Haslam naturally hopes it will be popular.
    “That would be nice,” he said. “But we want somebody who’s going to win. If we win, they’ll be embraced.”
    It remains to be seen whether Haslam will reveal whether he preferred to land a more experienced NFL coach, particularly Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher or Nick Saban.
    Before putting a full-court press on Kelly, Haslam said:
    “We go into this extremely confident that we can go after the top people available, at least the top people in our opinion, and that we have a very good chance of being successful in convincing them that this is the right situation.
    “Most of these top coaches are focused on finding a place where they think they can win, and we think we can make a very good case why this is the best opportunity in the league right now.”
    The best opportunity? Can the Browns job be that without a settled quarterback situation?
    Then-Browns general manager Tom Heckert burned a No. 22 overall draft pick on Brandon Weeden, whose pedestrian mobility might be a turnoff for Kelly.
    Asked Monday about Kelly, Weeden didn’t say they couldn’t adapt to each other, but Weeden did say, “I couldn’t run the zone read.”
    The zone read option has been a Kelly staple at Oregon.
    One of the great unknowns is whether Kelly might have devoted 2012 to developing Colt McCoy, who can make plays with his feet, rather than burning a Round 1 pick on Weeden, who has a bigger arm.
    The first thing Haslam asked former team president Mike Holmgren when they met in the summer was, “Can Weeden play?”
    Kelly and a top personnel man to be named — all eyes are on Michael Lombardi — sees head coach as the point from which success flows.
    “The key is to get that right, where we’re good over a long period of time, and where people expect the Cleveland Browns to be in the playoffs every year,” Haslam said.
    The Browns haven’t had a record better than 5-11 since 2007. Yet, neither Haslam nor Banner has ruled out a playoff run under Kelly. On his way out the door, former general manager Tom Heckert said he fully expected the 2013 Browns to compete for the AFC North title.
    “It might be a little unfair for me to put that pressure on that new coach already,” Haslam said. “Let’s face it. The way the NFL operates, there is relative parity, and you can turn things around quickly.”
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