Browns owner Randy Lerner's scheduled interview with Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay has been postponed, at least until after the Falcons' playoff game at Arizona Saturday, according to a league source.
Lerner had planned to meet with McKay Thursday. Instead, Lerner turned his attention to New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Lerner was scheduled to meet Spagnuolo Thursday afternoon or evening, the source said, presumably in the New York area.
Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that McKay, who built a Super Bowl team in Tampa Bay, had rebuffed Lerner's overture. Glazer said the two sides had talked, but McKay told the Browns he was happy and ''did not want to interview for the job or consider it until after the rest of the candidates had run their course in Cleveland.''
The leading candidate for the Browns' top football executive position is thought to be New England vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, whom Lerner reportedly interviewed Wednesday.
Cleveland.com refuted a report by the Boston Herald that Lerner gave Pioli a Thursday deadline. The Cleveland.com report said Pioli will interview with the Kansas City Chiefs before making a decision.
A source familiar with the negotiations told the Herald that Pioli met with Lerner Wednesday in New York. A source told the Herald that Pioli's demands in his counter-offer were so high that some within the Browns' organization felt he didn't want to leave the Patriots.
Pioli has spent nine years in New England and won three Super Bowls with coach Bill Belichick.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, whom the Herald reported would be Pioli's top choice for Browns coach, supported that idea in a press conference Wednesday at the Outback Bowl.
"We're good friends. I've got tremendous respect for Scott as a football guy,'' Ferentz said. ''He's just a tremendous person. I caution everybody: Don't try to predict what Scott is going to do, either. He's got a great job right where he's at.''
Lerner said in a media session Monday in Berea that he would be apprehensive about hiring a college coach. That's because of his experience with Butch Davis, who went 24-35 with the Browns from 2001-04. Ferentz spent three years as the Browns offensive line coach (1993-95) and three more in Baltimore as assistant head coach (1996-98). Pioli and Ferentz worked together four of those years (1993-96).
Ferentz addressed the speculation on whether he and Pioli were headed to Cleveland after Iowa defeated South Carolina 31-10 in Thursday's Outback Bowl in Tampa.
''Scott's a great friend of mine and I think it's a mutual thing,'' Ferentz said. ''I think it's presumptous to think anybody knows what he's doing right now. He and I haven't talked in three weeks. We've both been doing our jobs. I've got a great job at Iowa, I've said that many, many times. The people are fantastic and I just feel very fortunate.'' (Of course, not talking to Pioli in three weeks did not rule out e-mail or text conversation.)
Asked if returning to the NFL was on his to-do list after 10 seasons at Iowa, Ferentz said, ''I don't have a to-do list. I never have. I try to live every day and enjoy them. I can't think of a season I've enjoyed more than this one.'' The Hawkeyes (9-4) won six of their last seven games, including an upset of then-No. 3 Penn State.
A source close to Pioli said Tuesday that Pioli coming to Cleveland was not a ''gimme'' and would depend on the right structure of the organization.
According to the Associated Press, Lerner interviewed recently fired Jets coach Eric Mangini Tuesday. Mangini is the brother-in-law of Indians general manager Mark Shapiro. Several sources told the Herald that Lerner is infatuated with Mangini, once considered a prodigy of Belichick. The relationship between Mangini and Pioli is unclear after Mangini allegedly blew the whistle on the Patriots' taping of defensive signals in 2007's ''Spygate'' controversy.
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