Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner weren’t wasting time in Arizona while waiting to interview Oregon’s Chip Kelly.
According to multiple reports, they’ve interviewed fired Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, Syracuse’s Doug Marrone, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
The Browns won’t confirm any interviews before or after they occur. The Kelly interview could happen as early as today.
O’Brien had been mentioned as a popular candidate for the Browns and Eagles, among other teams, but it had been unclear if he would interview after only a year at Penn State.
He did interview with Cleveland and Philadelphia this week, but chose Thursday night to continue as the coach in Happy Valley and not accept any more interviews.
O’Brien, who spent five years as an assistant to Bill Belichick in New England, was named Big Ten and national coach of the year for his work with the Nittany Lions. They went 8-4 despite stiff NCAA sanctions following the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
O’Brien reached two Super Bowls with the Patriots. He coached receivers and quarterbacks before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2011, when the Patriots led the AFC in scoring with 32.1 points per game.
Browns special teams ace Ray Ventrone, who played for O’Brien with the Patriots, gave him a strong endorsement.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Ventrone said Monday. “He would be a good fit.”
Whisenhunt, 50, was fired Monday by the Arizona Cardinals after six seasons and interviewed with the Browns on Wednesday. He had a 45-51 regular-season record, won two NFC West titles and was 4-2 in the playoffs, including a 27-23 loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XXIII.
The Cardinals had a series of quarterback injuries and struggles in 2012 and finished 5-11 after a 4-0 start. Whisenhunt interviewed with Buffalo earlier in the week.
He was Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator under Bill Cowher from 2004-06 and has a brief history in Cleveland. He was special teams coach under Chris Palmer in the 1999 expansion season.
Kelly coached Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday in Glendale, Ariz., and the Browns interviewed Marrone.
He was offensive coordinator for the Saints from 2006-08 before returning to his struggling alma mater. Syracuse went 8-5 this year with a 38-14 win in the Pinstripe Bowl over West Virginia.
Marrone was hired in 2006 by Saints coach and play caller Sean Payton after spending four years as offensive line coach of the Jets. In 2008, the Saints led the NFL in total offense (410.7 yards per game) and passing offense (311.1 yards per game).
Tom Heckert, who was fired as Browns general manager Monday, will interview with the Jets on Saturday, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. That’s only if Heckert doesn’t join former Eagles coach and colleague Andy Reid in Kansas City.
Reid was reportedly close to a deal with the Chiefs on Thursday.
** The Browns asked the 49ers for permission to interview director of player personnel Tom Gamble for the general manager opening, NFL Network's Albert Breer reported.
** John Idzik could be a candidate to join Cleveland’s restructured front office, according to multiple reports.
Idzik has spent the last six years with the Seahawks as vice president of football administration. He oversees player negotiations, the salary cap and football-operations budgets.
The Browns signed defensive lineman Kendrick Adams, tight end Dan Gronkowski and defensive back Kent Richardson to reserve/future contracts as free agents.
Adams (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) was undrafted in April out of LSU and spent time on the practice squads of Tampa Bay, Detroit and Cleveland.
Gronkowski (6-5, 265) has played 21 games with five starts and has nine catches for 69 yards. He appeared in five games with the Browns in 2011.
Richardson (5-11, 200) spent the past two seasons with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena League. He had 80 tackles, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, a league-leading 14 interceptions and was named the AFL Defensive Back of the Year.
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