With the Cleveland Browns reportedly targeting Oregon’s Chip Kelly as their next head coach, the NFL club has apparently been doing its due diligence in case they swing and miss.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and citing an unnamed source, the Browns have already interviewed Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien for their vacancy. The interview allegedly took place at some point earlier this week.
It had been speculated on earlier in the week that O’Brien had been seriously considering listening to NFL overtures.
O’Brien has been with the Nittany Lions for just one season, but was hired before the NCAA slammed the football program with historic sanctions that may or may not stick. It’s been rumored that his buyout is all little as $9.s million and as much as just over $18 million.
The Browns as well as the Philadelphia Eagles have, at least in large part, focused their search on coaches from the collegiate level. Kelly is expected to be interviewed by the Browns tomorrow, followed by interviews with the Eagles and Buffalo Bills if the AFC North team can’t seal the deal immediately.
The Eagles have also been mentioned as an NFL club that will make a “heavy push” for O’Brien; it’s unknown if Philly has followed the Browns’ purported lead and already talked to the Nittany Lions coach.
Finally, in other Browns-related coaching news involving a college coach, Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com reported earlier today that Cleveland interviewed Syracuse’s Doug Marrone in Arizona. Marrone was expected to interview with the Bills this week as well.
UPDATED 8:48 p.m. ET: According to Pete Thamel of SI.com, “Penn State is in the midst of a massive push to keep O’Brien… and has received positive indications that he’s strongly considering staying.”
Thamel went on to write “that the university is tugging at O’Brien’s heartstrings and attachment to the school that gave him his break to be a head coach.”
Whether or not the heartstring tugging, in concert with what’s expected to be the requisite bump in pay, will be enough to keep O’Brien in Happy Valley remains to be seen.