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All signs point west
January 4, 2013 - Mike McLain
The worst-kept secret in the NFL is that Oregon coach Chip Kelly is being pursued heavily by the Browns.
Team CEO Joe Banner and owner James Haslam are in Arizona, where the Ducks defeated Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl Thursday night. The plan is to make Kelly an attractive offer and keep other teams from moving in to land his services.
Banner and Haslam weren't around when the Browns failed to make a trade with St. Louis to move up in the draft for the opportunity to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. The failure to land Griffin might have been one reason why general manager Tom Heckert was fired earlier this week. Haslam and Banner don't want to make the same mistake with Kelly, who is clearly their number one choice.
The only change in the plan for the Browns would be if Alabama coach Nick Saban was willing to return to the NFL. All reports indicate that Saban is content in Tuscaloosa, where one day he could be thought of with more reverence than the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant.
Kelly admitted after the Fiesta Bowl that he's willing to listen to NFL offers. What he has to decide in selecting the Browns is the lack of a quarterback that fits his desire to run a fast-paced, option-style offense. Brandon Weeden isn't the guy, and neither if Colt McCoy. The Browns signed Josh Johnson late in the season, but that was a need move because of injuries to Weeden and McCoy. Johnson isn't an option to start next season.
Money won't be an option. It comes down to how well Banner and Haslam can sell the Browns to Kelly.
Given the way Haslam conducted himself at a press conference last Monday, expect him to put on a hard sell. He was all business to the point of showing a determined, competitive streak. That has to play well with fans that were turned off by the distance and seeming lack of concern shown by former owner Randy Lerner.
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