Browns owner Jimmy Haslam released a letter this morning to update fans on the team's search for its seventh full-time head coach since 1999. It was sent to season-ticket holders and distributed to the media.
Haslam and CEO Joe Banner fired coach Rob Chudzinski on Dec. 29 after the Browns went 4-12 during his first season on the job. Since then, the organization has received rampant criticism for its drawn-out search partly because two candidates have withdrawn from the running and two more have accepted jobs with other teams, fueling the perception that coaches don't want to work for the Browns in the wake of Chudzinski's quick dismissal. NFL Network’s Albert Breer wrote on Twitter this past weekend that the job is viewed as “radioactive.”
Of the seven NFL teams who fired a head coach in the past month, only the Browns have yet to fill their vacancy. The letter was released before news broke today about the Minnesota Vikings hiring Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer as their head coach, leaving the Browns as the only team with an opening.
But as Haslam explains in the letter, the Browns have chosen to wait to interview an assistant or assistants who are still in the playoffs before wrapping up their search. For example, they're expected to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, a perceived front-runner to get the job, once his team has finished the postseason, a source confirmed, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the search.
Haslam's letter can be read below.
I thought it was important to take a little bit of time to update you on our head-coach search. We have had the opportunity to speak to a number of outstanding candidates. We have purposefully been very methodical in our approach. We believe it is very important to stay disciplined to this process and to interview all of the candidates on our list. We are strongly committed to finding the right person to coach the Cleveland Browns.
We understood from the beginning that if we wanted to speak to all of the coaches on our list that we may need to wait until they have completed their participation in the playoffs. We are prepared to wait as long as necessary because this is a very important decision. Everyone in our organization is committed to finding the right leader for our team.
We believe the head coach of the Cleveland Browns to be a very attractive position. We have one of the youngest teams in the League, a roster that includes five Pro Bowlers. In addition, we have more salary-cap room than all but one NFL team. We also have three of the top 35 picks in the upcoming draft and five of the top 83 selections.
We are very much looking forward to adding a strong coach to our football team. On behalf of the Cleveland Browns, I cannot thank you enough for your valuable support and passion that you show for our team.
We look forward to communicating with you again after the search process is complete. Thank you again for your phenomenal support and loyalty.