Browns rumored to be meeting with Oregon’s Kelly

As owner of the Cleveland Browns, Jimmy Haslam needs to learn quickly that attempts to stifle rumors are fruitless.

During the press conference last Monday to announce the firings of coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert, Haslam tried to calm the storm that was about to hit shore concerning the search to find replacements for Shurmur and Heckert.

“There will be a million rumors out there,” Haslam said. “You all have done this before, about this person and that person. Much like when we spoke on August 3, we’re not going to comment on any people, specifically for either of the two searches. There are only two people who know who the candidates are, and you’re looking at both of them.”

It took less than 24 hours before speculation began running rampant, with the biggest rumor being that Oregon coach Chip Kelly tops the wish list. CEO Joe Banner, according to multiple reports, is in Arizona for today’s Fiesta Bowl between Oregon and Kansas State, with the intention of getting to Kelly before the Philadelphia Eagles can state their case.

There could be a problem in that plan, and it has to do with Kelly’s possible lack of willingness to leave the Ducks. It’s assumed that the Oregon football program will receive NCAA sanctions for reported recruiting violations and that Kelly will skip town for the NFL. However, Kelly was pursued by teams last year and resisted the temptation.

There’s no certainty that he will make the jump this year, no matter how insistent people like Banner will be in their pursuits.

If Haslam could have his way, Alabama coach Nick Saban would be named the coach shortly after Monday’s national championship game against Notre Dame. Haslam has watched Saban with keen interest on the SEC level as a major financial contributor to the University of Tennessee.

Haslam would kill two birds with one stone by reeling in Saban. Not only would he get his man to coach the Browns, but he would weaken one of Tennessee’s many rivals.

Saban failed in a two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins, who went a combined 15-17 in the 2005-06 seasons. He then angered Dolphins fans by saying he wasn’t leaving, only to accept the Alabama job in 2007.

It’s thought that Saban became discontented with the Dolphins after he was overruled by team physicians in trying to sign quarterback Drew Brees in the 2006 free-agency period. At the time there were questions about the strength of Brees’ injured throwing shoulder. The Dolphins pursued Daunte Culpepper instead, while the New Orleans Saints gambled successfully on Brees.

The Browns won’t offer Saban a quarterback anywhere close to Brees’ talent level, which has to concern any potential coach. Saban has it too good at Alabama to accept a NFL job that will require a certain degree of rebuilding.

Saban might also be a difficult fit into the culture of NFL media. He doesn’t have to worry about an inquisitive, nerve-pinching press in Alabama. The toughest question he gets from the “Tuscaloosa News” might concern the Crimson Tide’s travel plans for the week.

That won’t be the case in Cleveland, where the media have grown accustomed to dealing with coaches that are on “firing alert.” It kicked in with Shurmur when news broke about the sale of the franchise to Haslam at the opening of training camp.

Saban doesn’t do well with rumors and innuendos, and he certainly wouldn’t feel comfortable on the proverbial hot seat.

The problem with Kelly is that he runs a base option offense. The last time anyone checked, there’s no quarterback on the Browns’ roster that can run an option attack. The only candidate is Josh Johnson, who was signed in a pinch last week when Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy were out with shoulder injuries.

If Kelly has an interest in coaching the Browns, he might ask for an option-style quarterback. Can you say “Michael Vick?”

As we go through the first week of the coaching search, it looks like Kelly is the choice, assuming Saban doesn’t have a change of heart. There’s been no talk about Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, which would be a mistake. He worked well in Pittsburgh with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and his performance as an interim coach in place of Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis is well-documented.

The only sure thing at this time is that more rumors will surface on a daily basis.