University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly is no longer a lock to bolt for the NFL as Nike chairman/co-founder and Oregon booster Phil Knight is making a late push to keep Kelly in Eugene, Ore., reports Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Over the last week, three NFL teams – the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills – have pursued Kelly for their head coaching vacancies. The Bills have already moved on from Kelly, hiring Syracuse head coach and former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Doug Marrone early on Sunday morning, leaving just the Eagles and Browns in the running for Kelly, who could leave the NFL at the altar for the second consecutive offseason.
Kelly was close to becoming the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last January before backing out when the two sides were deep into contract negotiations.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported on Sunday that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are flying back to Ohio without a decision from Kelly, while ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports the Browns are planning to “reboot their search” for a head coach. The Browns, who were reportedly “close to a deal” with Kelly late last week, have already interviewed former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton for the position and interviewed Marrone on Thursday.
Mortensen adds that Kelly’s decision is now between the Eagles and Ducks.
The Eagles had a marathon lunch with Kelly on Saturday, but the reported nine-hour session ended without a decision from Kelly, who had planned to wrap up this process quickly. The Eagles had planned to interview Marrone on Sunday, but will now head to Denver to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. The Eagles have also requested permission to interview Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
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