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Lions hire Jim Caldwell as head coach, leaving Browns, Vikings as only NFL teams with vacancies

By Nate Ulrich Published: January 14, 2014

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The Browns and Minnesota Vikings are the only NFL teams with head-coaching vacancies after the Detroit Lions announced today via their website that they hired Jim Caldwell, the former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator and Indianapolis Colts head coach.

The Vikings could fill their opening later today because they’re interviewing Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer for a second time, according to reports.

As for the Browns, they’re expected to wait for an interview with perceived front-runner Adam Gase before replacing Rob Chudzinski, who was fired Dec. 29 after going 4-12 in his first season on the job, the Denver Post reported this morning. The Browns won’t be able to interview Gase, the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator, until he’s done with the postseason. The Broncos will host the New England Patriots at 3 p.m. Sunday in the AFC Championship game.

If it doesn’t work out with Gase, where will the Browns turn?

Ex-Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak is among the candidates known to have interviewed with owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner. Munchak also was reportedly in the mix for the Lions’ job but lost to Caldwell. The Browns interviewed Munchak on Monday, according to reports.

The Browns also have reportedly interviewed Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

The Browns are not commenting on interviews or even confirming that they occurred.

Former San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator and Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels also interviewed with Haslam and Banner, but they’re out of the running.

The Titans hired Whisenhunt as their new head coach Monday. He was also a finalist for the Browns’ job last year, netting two interviews before they hired Chudzinski.

McDaniels, who grew up in Canton, removed himself from consideration last week after he reached out to the Browns following his interview and was told he was not the front-runner, a league source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the search. NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported the main reason McDaniels chose to stay with the Patriots is to create stability for his wife and four children.

During a conference call today with Patriots reporters, McDaniels said he'll definitely return to New England next season.

"I think all it means is I made a decision that this is the right time for me to be here," McDaniels said. "I’m really happy here, I’ve said that numerous times.

"There’s not really much else to it. It’s a process you go through sometimes, and you ultimately have to make choices based on what’s best for you and your family, and that’s what I tried to do."

An interesting local angle to watch with Caldwell taking over for the Lions is what it might mean for former Ohio State University coach Jim Tressel, who’s now the University of Akron’s executive vice president.

ESPN’s Adam Caplan speculated last week that Tressel could become an assistant on Caldwell’s staff if the latter became a head coach again. Caldwell and Tressel have a long-standing friendship, and when Caldwell coached the Colts, he hired Tressel as a replay consultant in 2011.

Last week in a radio interview with 97.1 FM in Columbus, Tressel conceded the Browns never contacted him about an interview. But it could be a different story with the Lions.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting time here in the next few weeks, next month, and I wouldn’t count anything out,” Tressel said.

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