The Browns might go another round with two bald-headed, hard-nosed defensive coordinators who could pass for pro wrestlers as the organization’s marathon of a head-coaching search enters its fourth week.
The Browns’ quest probably won’t end until after Super Bowl XLVIII, which will feature a showdown between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Browns had not scheduled a second interview with any candidates before the start of the AFC and NFC Championship games Sunday, but follow-up meetings could unfold with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that the Browns hope to interview Quinn again. He helped the Seahawks advance to the Super Bowl with a 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night in the NFC title game. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported the Browns are planning to interview Pettine again early this week.
As for Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, the earliest the Browns could interview him for the first time would be Feb. 3, the day after the Super Bowl. Gase helped the Broncos earn a 26-16 win over the New England Patriots Sunday afternoon in the AFC title game.
So Quinn and Gase, both of whom might be high on the Browns’ list of candidates, couldn’t be hired until after the Super Bowl. NFL rules stipulate that teams cannot strike deals with assistant coaches until they’re done with the postseason.
But at least the Browns could talk to Quinn again before the Super Bowl. Because the Browns already interviewed him Jan. 1 and because he interviewed with another team as well (the Minnesota Vikings before they hired Mike Zimmer as their new head coach), NFL rules would allow the Browns to conduct a second interview with him this week. The interview would need to take place no later than Jan. 26, and the Seahawks would need to grant permission for it to happen.
After the Browns fired coach Rob Chudzinski Dec. 29, they submitted their first interview request to Gase, and it’s part of the reason he has become a perceived favorite of owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner. Gase, though, said he would postpone the interview until the Broncos were finished, and because he has yet to have an initial meeting with the Browns, he wouldn’t be allowed to get one before the Super Bowl even if he changed his mind.
Also, Gase is inclined to stay with the Broncos even if the Browns offer him the job and there’s a chance he could pass on an interview altogether, according to several reports. He’s only 35 and in his first season as a coordinator, so he might want to further build his profile with quarterback Peyton Manning by his side before pursuing his next career move.
Pettine, who interviewed with the Browns on Thursday, didn’t sniff the playoffs with the Bills this season. So those rules about when a candidate can and cannot interview or agree to a deal don’t apply to him or anyone else who’s not alive in the postseason. For example, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio are free to talk after being eliminated Sunday.
Regardless, if Quinn and Pettine receive second interviews, it could turn out to be significant for one of them.
Quinn, 43, is in his 11th season as an NFL assistant but his first as a coordinator in the league. Using a 4-3, hybrid scheme, the Seahawks had the league’s No. 1-ranked defense (273.6 yards allowed per game) during the 2013 regular season. Quinn took a break from the NFL to serve as the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida from 2011-12, where he used a 3-4, hybrid system.
The Browns switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, hybrid scheme last year.
If Quinn became a head coach, his list of offensive coordinator candidates would include former Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak and former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Rapoport reported. Haslam and Banner will definitely take into strong consideration the type of staff candidates would be able to assemble.
Pettine, 47, has been an NFL defensive coordinator for five seasons (one with the Bills and four with the New York Jets). His defense has finished ranked in the top 10 each time. Pettine runs a 3-4, hybrid system.
The Browns reportedly interviewed two other candidates who are still in the running: Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak. But they might be interested in Munchak as an offensive line coach or a coordinator, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.