Oregon wrapped up another successful season under Chip Kelly with a convincing win over Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, and now Kelly turns his attention to the NFL teams that are lining up to interview him after he guided the Ducks to a fourth straight BCS bowl.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns have previously been linked to Kelly in recent days and weeks, and now a third team is emerging as a viable destination for Kelly – the Buffalo Bills, who fired Chan Gailey after going 16-32 in three seasons.
Kelly interviewed with Buffalo in Arizona on Friday according to USA Today, and also with Cleveland according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Buffalo is also interviewing a number of candidates this week, so Kelly is no slam dunk to be the next coach of the Bills.
But if his only options are between Cleveland and Buffalo, which is the best landing spot for Kelly who only lost seven times in his four years at Oregon?
It would appear likely that he would lose at least seven times if he were to walk into either one of these franchises that have a long way to go to get to a Super Bowl–let alone a postseason berth.
Cleveland has slightly better personnel with Trent Richardson running behind a strong offensive line featuring Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz, and decent prospects at receiver in Greg Little and Josh Gordon. Quarterback is a gigantic question mark where Brandon Weeden struggled mightily as a 29-year old rookie, but the defense is full of young playmakers ready to emerge.
Buffalo has similar questions at quarterback, where Ryan Fitzpatrick is fresh off signing a seven-year contract extension and failed miserably in living up to the $62 million contract so far; but, could Kelly get the most out of Fitzpatrick and avoid having to take the hit and release him?
The best player on the roster is running back CJ Spiller, who can be one of the league’s top backs when he is actually utilized out of the backfield. Spiller averaged six yards per carry in his third season, but only received 207 carries. One of the big reasons why Gailey is unemployed is because he failed to get the ball in his best player’s hands, and Kelly wouldn’t be that foolish.
Like Cleveland, Buffalo has nice building pieces on defense with first-round picks Marcell Dareus and Stephon Gilmore in addition to big free-agent signee Mario Williams to build around.
Kelly will enter a situation where he has to rebuild a franchise and either stop will give him that opportunity, but it appears Kelly will have more competition for the head coaching job in Buffalo.
For that reason, I think he doesn’t end up in Buffalo and will land in Cleveland–who is prepared to make him an offer he can’t refuse.
UPDATE: Ian Rapoport from NFL Network is reporting Cleveland and Kelly are close to a deal to become the Browns coach, according to a source informed of his situation.
Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt