The Browns coaching search appears to be a two-man race led by Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
But with important interviews reportedly coming today, the question remains whether Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn remains in the running.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter said Wednesday night that two finalists would fly to Cleveland today, per league sources, and that Pettine was the favorite. Schefter did not name the second. He said the Browns had not decided on their choice.
The Browns flew to Florida Wednesday to interview former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, according to a FootballScoop.com report confirmed by Alex Marvez of Fox Sports. But a league source told the Beacon Journal that Schiano would not be the Browns coach. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal search details.
Wednesday afternoon on the Bull and Fox show on 92.3 The Fan, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said Pettine and Quinn were finalists to replace coach Rob Chudzinski. But Albert Breer of NFL Network said as of Wednesday night Quinn didn’t have anything set up with the Browns.
Multiple reports said the Browns spoke to Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dick Koetter Wednesday, but Vaughn McClure, who covers the Falcons for ESPN.com, called Koetter a “long-shot candidate.” Rapoport tweeted that Koetter, represented by the same agent as Quinn, didn’t have a formal interview, but the Browns could “circle back” to Koetter.
WKYC Channel 3’s Jim Donovan and Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com reported late Wednesday night that New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels contacted the Browns this week and could be back in the mix, which was quickly shot down in a tweet by Rapoport.
McDaniels interviewed with the Browns on Jan. 4, but withdrew on Jan. 8 after being told he was not the front-runner, an NFL source told the Beacon Journal. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the search.
Donovan said late Wednesday that the makeup of the Patriots coaching staff is changing after Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, which prompted McDaniels to call the Browns and ask to be considered again. Donovan said there are reports that the Browns didn’t take the Canton McKinley and John Carroll graduate seriously, despite the link between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Browns General Manager Mike Lombardi.
Breer said the Browns talked to Belichick about Schiano, fired on Dec. 30, and that Schiano called around the league asking about Browns CEO Joe Banner. Schiano’s name first surfaced in connection with the Browns over a week ago, mentioned by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Keith Britton of 92.3 The Fan. Former Rutgers coach Schiano, known as a team builder and tough disciplinarian, went 11-21 in two seasons with the Buccaneers.
Earlier Wednesday, Schefter said in a radio interview that the Browns were still talking to other candidates and hinted a surprise might be in store. Schefter called Pettine “a fall back option” as the Browns seek to replace first-year coach Chudzinski, fired on Dec. 29. That must have changed after the Browns finished talking with Schiano.
“Expect the unexpected,” Schefter said on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN radio in New York, according to buffalobills.com. “If you think it’s going to be Mike Pettine, If you think it’s going to be Dirk Koetter, get ready for that curve ball.”
On 92.3 The Fan, Rapoport said the Browns wanted to meet again with Quinn, whom they first spoke to on Jan. 1. But with the Seahawks facing the Denver Broncos in the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, league rules require a second Quinn interview to be completed no later than Sunday. The Seahawks are scheduled to land at the Newark airport at 7 p.m. Sunday.
On Tuesday night, Pettine seemed on the verge of being hired by the Browns. Donovan, voice of the Browns, said Pettine had a four-hour interview that included a discussion of possible assistants, but ended with no offer.
Wednesday evening Donovan reported that Pettine and the Bills were pushing for an update from the Browns. Donovan said if the Bills have to replace Pettine, they want to do it while in Mobile, where the Senior Bowl will be played Saturday. Pettine is likely talking to candidates for his staff as the pool of those available dwindles. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeted Wednesday that should Pettine get the Browns job, Green Bay Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt was “high on his list” for offensive coordinator.
Another of the 10 men known to have spoken to the Browns moved on. Former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak was hired as Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Wednesday night, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Munchak interviewed for the Browns job on Jan. 13.
Pro Bowl picks
Browns cornerback Joe Haden, left tackle Joe Thomas and wide receiver Josh Gordon were selected for Team Jerry Rice in the second half of the Pro Bowl Draft Wednesday on NFL Network. On Team Deion Sanders, safety T.J. Ward and tight end Jordan Cameron will join center Alex Mack, who was tabbed Tuesday. The game will be played Sunday in Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.