By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
If the Browns are waiting on Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase to wrap up their head-coaching search, their patience will be tested for at least another week.
Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Sunday that Gase “is the top guy on the Cleveland Browns’ wish list.” But the Browns have not interviewed Gase, 35, and they won’t be allowed to do so until the Broncos are eliminated from the playoffs.
Gase helped guide the Broncos to a 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday night. The Broncos advance to face the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at 3 p.m. Jan. 19. The winner will meet the NFC champion — either the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers — in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2.
After the Browns fired coach Rob Chudzinski Dec. 29 following his lone season on the job, the first interview request they submitted went to Gase. Per NFL rules, he would’ve been allowed to interview that week because the Broncos had a first-round bye. However, Gase told his suitors — the Browns and Minnesota Vikings requested interviews — he wouldn’t meet with them until the Broncos were done with the postseason.
“I told both teams that were interested in me that I appreciated it and I was going to wait until after our season had concluded,” Gase told Denver reporters Jan. 3. “They were great about it. They said they appreciated me being up front and honest about it, and I thought that was the best decision for what we are trying to accomplish with our team.”
Gase’s stance has raised questions about whether he would accept an offer to become a head coach this year. He’s in the midst of his first season as a coordinator and would likely position himself to receive more career opportunities by sticking with the Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning for another year.
NFL teams are not permitted to offer jobs to assistant coaches who are still in the playoffs.
The Chargers were eliminated by the Broncos, so Chargers offensive coordinator and former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt is now eligible to receive offers. The Browns reportedly interviewed Whisenhunt on Saturday, but multiple national writers, including Glazer, have labeled him the favorite to land the Detroit Lions’ coaching job. He interviewed with the Lions on Thursday and the Tennessee Titans on Friday.
The Browns also interviewed Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, according to reports. The team is not commenting on interviews during its search.
Like Gase, McDaniels was a perceived favorite. McDaniels, though, dropped out of the running this past week after he reached out to the Browns following his interview and was told he wasn’t 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 McDaniels’ primary reason for staying with the Patriots is to create stability for his family, which includes his wife and four young children.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported “there is a good chance” the Browns would interview Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott if the Panthers lost to the 49ers on Sunday. The Panthers fell 23-10, so McDermott is available to conduct interviews.
Draft pick set
The Browns netted the 26th overall pick in May’s draft by trading running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts in September.
The Colts were eliminated from the postseason late Saturday night via a 43-22 loss to the Patriots. The Colts were slotted for pick No. 26 when the Broncos defeated the Chargers on Sunday night. The Chargers have the 25th overall pick. The draft order isn’t set for playoff teams until they’re eliminated.
So the Browns have two first-round picks — their own selection (fourth overall) and the Colts’ pick (26th overall). On Sept. 18, they traded Richardson, an underachiever thus far who was picked third overall in 2012, to the Colts in exchange for their 2014 first-round choice.
It seems premature to predict which prospect the Browns will target with their top pick because the team is still searching for a head coach. However, it’s a safe bet it’ll be a quarterback, and several national writers have linked Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel to the Browns because the front office supposedly loves him. La Canfora reported Saturday that the Browns are “very high” on Manziel. Draft analysts widely consider Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles the other top-rated quarterbacks in this year’s class.
The first three picks belong to the Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively.
If the Browns think Manziel — or whomever they ultimately target — will be picked before they’re put on the clock at No. 4, they certainly have enough ammunition to trade up. The Browns own 10 picks, including seven in the first four rounds.
The draft will run May 8-10.
Breer wrote the following on Twitter on Sunday about the Browns’ coaching vacancy: “You get the increasing feeling, talking to people around the league, that the Browns job is seen as radioactive. Tough spot for them.”
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.