The Buffalo Bills coaching search went into overdrive Friday, when team officials interviewed three candidates, including Oregon's Chip Kelly, one of college football's hottest prospects.
The Bills announced just before midnight that newly promoted president Russ Brandon and his top executives also interviewed recently fired Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. The Bills, stationed in Arizona for much of this week, didn't provide details regarding where the interviews took place or how long they lasted.
Next up for Buffalo is a trip to Denver on Saturday, when the team is scheduled to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, according to a person familiar with Buffalo's plans. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team has not revealed who they've lined up to meet.
The Bills are in the midst of their fifth coaching search since 2001 after Chan Gailey was fired on Monday.
It was a busy day for Kelly, as well. He also interviewed with Cleveland on Friday, and a person familiar with those negotiations said the Browns are nearing a deal with Oregon's offensive mastermind. Kelly's interviews were conducted a day after he led the fifth-ranked Ducks (12-1) to a 35-17 victory over No. 7 Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.
Following the win, the 49-year-old Kelly said he wanted to get the interview process over "quickly.''
Kelly was also supposed to meet with Philadelphia. However, a person familiar with the interviews says the Eagles are "heading in another direction.''
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team isn't discussing its negotiations publicly. The person added the Eagles planned to interview several other candidates regardless of any conversations with Kelly.
The Eagles were granted permission Friday to interview Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and are scheduled to meet with McCoy in Denver on Sunday, as well.
The Bills are coming off their second consecutive 6-10 season and have not enjoyed a winning record since a 9-7 finish in 2004. They own the NFL's longest active playoff drought that's now at 13 consecutive seasons.
The Bills' meeting with Smith did not come as a surprise. Several reports surfaced over the past few days that the former Bears coach was interested in the Buffalo job since he was fired by the Bears on Monday. Smith has indirect ties to the Bills through former Bears defensive assistant coach Gill Byrd, who is the father of Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd.
Smith is a defensive-minded coach, who would have an opportunity to put his stamp on Buffalo's revamped but under-achieving defense, which struggled last year. The unit was among the NFL's worst despite the addition of defensive end Mario Williams, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency in March.
Marrone has been credited for turning around the Orange in four seasons. Syracuse rolled to a 7-5 finish by winning five of its last six games this season, including a 38-14 win over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl last weekend.
McCoy has become a hot prospect in his fourth season with the Broncos. He's played a key role in helping speed Peyton Manning's transition after the star quarterback signed with the team in free agency last offseason. McCoy has 13 years of NFL experience as an assistant, and previously spent eight seasons working under Broncos coach John Fox in Carolina.
Over his career, McCoy had quarterbacks reach 3,000 yards passing seven times. That includes Manning, who finished sixth in the NFL this season with 4,659 yards.
As the AFC's top seed, the Broncos are off until opening the playoffs on Jan. 12. They've allotted time for interested teams to interview McCoy in Denver this weekend. McCoy has also been linked as a candidate for coaching vacancies in Arizona and Chicago.