The Cleveland Browns were the first team to get to Chip Kelly.
Joe Banner and company met with Kelly in Arizona on the Friday after the Fiesta Bowl. Reports surfaced that night that the two sides were close to a deal. But on Saturday, the Eagles got their shot and made the most of it. It seemed that Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman had one-upped Banner for the guy both sides viewed as the top option on the market.
But that’s not exactly how Banner sees it.
Speaking to SI.com’s Peter King, Banner commented on the Kelly hiring for the first time since the news was announced last week.
“We removed ourselves from the process. We really liked Chip. He’s intriguing, a very different thinker, and very smart. But you could see he was uncertain what he wanted to do. He may be in Philadelphia 10 years or longer and have a terrific career. But the fact he committed to Tampa Bay last year, backed out, then seemed all year to be leaning toward going to the NFL, then being so uncertain with us, we just felt it was too big a gamble. If there was no ambivalence, we may have offered him the job.”
Last week, Lurie and Banner traded barbs through the media. Lurie accused his old pal of spreading negative stories about Roseman. Banner, meanwhile, said the claims bordered on being “libelous.”
Kelly and Lurie have emphasized multiple times that the coach was deciding between the Eagles and Oregon. The way they told it, Cleveland was never really in the mix.
“The other thing that was really clear after we interviewed Chip, we got a call from his agent, and we also found out via Chip that it was just a question of if he was going to come back to the NFL, it was only with the Eagles,” Lurie said. “That was obvious. And it was obvious in the interview as well. That was the question, was he going to stay at Oregon or come to the Eagles? That was the basic dilemma he had.”
“I was always going to visit with all three teams that expressed interest in talking to me,” Kelly added. “I said I would always sit down, and when I did listen, it was evident to me that I was either going to go to Philadelphia or stay in Oregon.”
Unfortunately, the Eagles and Browns don’t play each other in 2013. But this likely is not the end of the back-and-forth between the two childhood friends.