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January 04. 2013 9:35PM

Report: Chip Kelly close to deal to become Browns' head coach


Oregon Ducks head coach Chip Kelly is greeted with a bucket of Gatorade as linebacker Michael Clay (46) looks on after defeating the Kansas State Wildcats at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on Thursday. (REUTERS/Ralph Freso)

Oregon coach Chip Kelly, whose team beat Kansas State in Thursday's Fiesta Bowl, looks like he's headed for the NFL.

The Manchester Central graduate and former UNH assistant had interviews lined up with three NFL teams - the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles - and he is close to reaching agreement on a deal to become the Browns' head coach, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported.

Kelly, who is lauded for his innovative offensive schemes, was considered the top choice of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who apparently is willing to spend a lot to land Kelly.

Kelly hasn't been hired yet, and there is always a chance the deal could fall through. But as of midday Friday, it appeared Kelly was headed to the Browns.

Kelly said after the Ducks' 35-17 win over Kansas State on Thursday night in Fiesta Bowl that he'll listen to offers and hopes to completed the process quickly.

“It's a fact-finding mission, finding if it fits or doesn't fit,” Kelly said “I don't really have any preconceived notions about it. That's what this deal is all about for me.

“It's not going to affect (Oregon) because we're not on the road (recruiting). So it'll be an opportunity if people do call, see where they are. I want to get it wrapped up quickly and figure out where I'm going to be.”

Kelly has openly acknowledged that he's willing to listen to NFL suitors. He was set to be interviewed by the Browns' Haslam and CEO Joe Banner in Arizona. They're attempting to replace Pat Shurmur, who was fired earlier this week.

“I said I'll always listen. And that's what I'll do,” Kelly said. “I know that people want to talk to me because of our players. The success of our football program has always been about our guys. It's an honor for someone to say they'd want to talk to me about maybe moving on to go coach in the National Football League. But it's because of what those guys do. I'll listen, and we'll see.”

Kelly, 49, has gone 46-7 in four seasons at Oregon and taken his teams to four BCS bowl games during that span. But he has no NFL experience on his resume.

Prior to interviewing Kelly, the Browns spoke with Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who decided to stay in his current job, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, The Plain Dealer reported.

Kelly indicated that his conversation with the Browns would be his first direct contact with an NFL team.

“I've only been on one interview in my life,” said Kelly, who spoke with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year about their head coaching opening. “I can't really tell you I have a checklist of what I'm looking for."


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