By Jay Skurski
The Buffalo Bills late Friday night (as in really late, like four minutes until this morning) confirmed they met with Oregon coach Chip Kelly, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith about their head coaching vacancy.
That brings to five the number of candidates the team has formally interviewed, joining former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton earlier this week.
Kelly, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, met with the Cleveland Browns for more than seven hours Friday. He's also scheduled to meet with the Philadelphia Eagles today, before having another meeting with the Browns. NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport reported Friday night that Cleveland was nearing an agreement with the coach.
Kelly, 48, improved his record to 46-7 over four seasons at Oregon with a 35-17 win over Kansas State in Thursday's Fiesta Bowl. Over that time, his spread offense has averaged more than 44 points per game, including nearly 50 per game (49.6) this season, while the Ducks have made four BCS bowl game appearances.
Marrone, also 48, has gone 25-25 over four seasons at Syracuse, helping turn around a program that was 10-37 prior to his arrival. Marrone also has NFL experience, having served as the offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints under Sean Payton for three seasons from 2006-08.
Like Kelly, Marrone also has interviewed with the Cleveland Browns, and is reportedly on the radar of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Smith, 54, is a much different candidate than Marrone and Smith in that he's got vast NFL head coaching experience, compiling an 81-63 record over the last nine seasons with the Chicago Bears. He's also a defensive-minded head coach, which could be attractive to a Bills team that has been historically bad on that side of the ball during Chan Gailey's just-concluded three-year run as coach.
Smith took the Bears to one Super Bowl and made two NFC title game appearances in his nine years.