The Eagles' three-man search party - owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman, and team president Don Smolenski - met Kelly in Phoenix for lunch, according to a source.
The Eagles would not confirm the meeting, but they released a statement Saturday morning when news broke that Lurie and company were airborne for Arizona.
"The Eagles are committed to finding the right fit for their head coach and are heading to Arizona now to kick off a week of interviews with a variety of candidates including [Broncos offensive coordinator Mike] McCoy, [Colts offensive coordinator Bruce] Arians, and [Seattle defensive coordinator Gus] Bradley," the statement said.
The Eagles made no mention of Kelly, but their yearning for the innovative coach has been no secret. He was near the top, if not at the top, of their wish list, NFL sources said. The fact that they flew to Arizona with apparently a small chance to land the 49-year-old suggested as much.
The Bills aren't considered serious contenders.
That left the Eagles and Browns and a showdown between Lurie and his friend and former colleague, Browns CEO Joe Banner. Both teams also interviewed Penn State coach Bill O'Brien last week, but he decided to stay at Penn State.
If Kelly is out of the picture, the Eagles will set their sights on other candidates. They have an interview scheduled with Syracuse coach Doug Marrone over the next few days and have requested to meet with Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
The Eagles had Marrone on their radar out of the chute, as The Inquirer reported early last week. Marrone has already interviewed with the Browns and Bills and is reportedly also poised to sit down with the Bears and Chargers.
Marrone has spent the last four years in Syracuse, where he restored a moribund program to respectability. The Orange went 8-5 this season; tied for the Big East Conference title; and topped West Virginia, 38-14, in the Pinstripe Bowl.
The 48-year-old Marrone has an NFL pedigree. Aside from a brief career with the Dolphins and Saints as an offensive lineman, he was the New York Jets' offensive line coach from 2002 to '05 and then the offensive coordinator with the Saints from 2006 to '08.
In three seasons in New Orleans, Marrone helmed an offense that finished first, fourth, and first in total yards. He did not call the plays, however. Head coach Sean Payton was mostly responsible for feeding plays to quarterback Drew Brees.
Marrone left for Syracuse the year before the Saints won the Super Bowl. He is 25-25 in four years and has received credit for the development of quarterback Ryan Nassib, a product of Malvern Prep who is projected to be selected in the middle rounds of April's draft.
Gruden, the younger brother of former Eagles offensive coordinator Jon Gruden, can't interview unless the Bengals grant permission. He was contacted for several openings last offseason but elected not to interview.
The Bengals' season ended Saturday with a 19-13 loss to the Texans.
Gruden, 45, has been in Cincinnati for two seasons. He was a coach and player in the Arena Football League for 12 seasons, from 1997 to 2008, but spent 2002-2008 as an offensive assistant with the Buccaneers under his brother.
The Eagles have three other interviews scheduled. They will meet with McCoy on Sunday and have been granted permission to interview Arians and Bradley.
They can meet with Arians and Bradley after the Colts and Seahawks play Sunday.
Philadelphia Eagles hire Chip Kelly as next head coach.
Contact Jeff McLane at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.