September 20, 2014

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Joe Banner: Chip Kelly was too big a gamble

CEO Joe Banner insists the Browns decided against hiring Chip Kelly before he had the chance to turn them down.

Banner told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King he and owner Jimmy Haslam felt Kelly was “too big a gamble” after seeming unsure about leaving Oregon for the NFL.

Chip Kelly

Kelly said last week after being hired as coach of the Eagles his only choices were staying at Oregon or leaving for Philadelphia. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said the same thing, taking a shot at Banner, his childhood friend and former right-hand man.

“We removed ourselves from the process,” Banner said. “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.”

The Browns met with Kelly for seven hours Jan. 4 and seemed intent on trying to hire him until he met with the Eagles for nine hours the next day. The Browns pulled out of the Kelly sweepstakes Jan. 6, and Kelly decided — temporarily — to return to Oregon.

Adding another element to the burgeoning Browns-Eagles rivalry was Kelly hiring fired Browns coach Pat Shurmur to be his offensive coordinator.

Cribbs back to Hawaii

Browns kick returner Joshua Cribbs was named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster as a replacement for Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones. Baltimore won the AFC championship, so the Ravens won’t be able to participate in the Pro Bowl on Sunday at 7 p.m.

Cribbs, who was voted first alternate last month, also made the Pro Bowl following the 2007 and ‘09 seasons. He finished fourth in the NFL this year in kickoff return average (27.4) and sixth in punt return average (12.0). He became just the sixth player in league history to total 12,000 kick return yards.

Cribbs joins a pair of teammates, tackle Joe Thomas and kicker Phil Dawson, in the Pro Bowl. They were voted starters.

Good look at Thornton?

Illinois offensive lineman Hugh Thornton, an Oberlin High School graduate, is on the North squad at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The teams practice this week and will play Saturday.

The official weigh-in was Monday, and Thornton measured 6-foot-32⁄8 and 313 pounds. NFLdraftscout.com rates him the fifth guard available in the draft and projects him as a third- or fourth-round pick.

Thornton played 10 games at left tackle for the Illini in 2012 and was selected second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.