By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
Denver Broncos executive John Elway thinks offensive coordinator Adam Gase is a stud, and he doesn’t want the Browns to lure him away with their head-coaching job.
The Browns and Minnesota Vikings submitted requests to interview Gase a few weeks ago, but he told both teams he would postpone the meetings until the Broncos were done with the playoffs. The Broncos will face the New England Patriots at 3 p.m. Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.
The Browns are the only NFL team without a head coach, and they’re still waiting to talk to Gase. The Vikings moved on and hired Mike Zimmer as their new coach Wednesday.
Elway, the Broncos’ executive vice president of football operations, is thrilled with the way Gase handled the opportunities presented to him.
“He’s had a great year, and he’s just got such a great feel,” Elway told reporters Thursday via ESPN.com. “He’s a hard worker and he’s very bright. I hope he stays. For him to be able to do what he did and to say, ‘I want to keep my focus on the Denver Broncos and once our season is over I’ll interview,’ to me, that was studly. I like guys that are committed to what they’re doing, committed to the Denver Broncos. So I couldn’t be more proud of that decision. It tells you a lot about the guy.”
Gase didn’t want to preach the importance of focus to his players and then let job interviews distract him during the team’s postseason run.
“For me, I just felt like I was all-in for what we we’re doing here,” Gase said Thursday during a news conference. “I just didn’t want to stand in front of our players and say one thing and do something else. So I felt like it was the most important thing for what we needed to do for this team.”
Gase is expected to interview with the Browns once the Broncos are finished with the postseason, a league source confirmed. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the Browns are not commenting on interviews. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are seeking a replacement for coach Rob Chudzinski, who they fired Dec. 29 after the team went 4-12 during his first season on the job.
If the Broncos fall to the Patriots, the interview could happen as early as Sunday night. If the Broncos prevail and punch their ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII, the earliest the Browns could meet with Gase would be Feb. 3, the day after the title game.
In the meantime, the Browns will continue to expand their head-coaching search by interviewing Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia on Saturday, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Thursday.
Bisaccia has 31 years of coaching experience on his resume, including 12 seasons in charge of NFL special teams units. He has never been a head coach. The Washington Redskins confirmed they interviewed Bisaccia for their head-coaching job on Jan. 3 before choosing former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden last week.
Bisaccia, 53, joined the Cowboys last year after guiding the San Diego Chargers’ special teams from 2011-12 and serving as an assistant head coach in his final season with the organization. He worked for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002-10 after spending 19 seasons at the collegiate level.
The Browns also interviewed Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on Thursday, Glazer reported. Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who’ll coach against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night, and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak are the other known candidates who have interviewed and are still in the running.
The Browns also interviewed Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, but they withdrew from consideration. Former Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt became the coach of the Titans and former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo was hired as the New York Giants’ offensive coordinator after both of them met with the Browns.
Gase is only 35 and he’s in his first season as a coordinator. Still, he’s a perceived favorite to become the Browns’ seventh full-time head coach since 1999 partly because he has an endorsement from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning is a longtime friend of Haslam. Manning played at the University of Tennessee, and Haslam is a major booster of the program.
The Broncos secured a 24-17 win over the Chargers on Sunday by converting a third-and-17 with Manning’s 21-yard pass to tight end Julius Thomas. In his postgame news conference, Manning praised Gase for his aggressive strategy.
“Great play call by Adam,” Manning said. “It really was a big-time play call.”
In Gase’s first year as offensive coordinator, the Broncos set a single-season NFL record with 606 points. Manning also set records with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns.
Elway, a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, certainly is giving Gase a share of the credit.
“I wish I could have played for him,” Elway said of Gase. “I think that he’s so bright and he’s working with Peyton and having been here with [former Broncos coach] Josh [McDaniels] before that — who is a very bright, young offensive mind — he has just used all of that and learned from all that. With [former Broncos offensive coordinator and Chargers coach Mike] McCoy here, then Peyton here and now [Gase] on his own, he’s been able to put them all together and mold it as his personality, and I think he’s done a tremendous job. That shows up in the numbers we’ve put up this year.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.