By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels confirmed he interviewed with the Browns for their head-coaching vacancy this past weekend.
“We met and that’s about all there is at this point,” McDaniels said Monday during a conference call with reporters who cover the Patriots. “Nothing, nothing further.”
McDaniels, 37, didn’t want to elaborate on his meeting with the Browns or his level of interest in the job. He cited his desire to focus on the Patriots’ upcoming playoff game Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I appreciate the question, and I understand it,” said McDaniels, a Canton native. “I know that’s something that comes up each time this year for other coaches. The opportunities are certainly flattering if they come up. That being said, I am going to try to keep my focus on the Colts and our preparation this week.
“Like I’ve said in the past, I’m fortunate to have the job I have, and I love being here. I love doing what I’m doing. Each opportunity that comes along is a little different and I’m going to leave it at that and continue to put my effort and attention into the Colts this week.”
NFL rules prohibit teams from offering jobs to assistant coaches in the playoffs until they are finished with the postseason. The two sides are not allowed to strike any agreements until then.
McDaniels is one of three candidates known to have interviewed with the Browns since they fired coach Rob Chudzinski on Dec. 29 after just one season on the job. Owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner also interviewed Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, 43, and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, 50, last week, according to several national reports.
The Browns are not commenting on interviews during their search.
The Browns requested permission to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, 35. But he told reporters he would postpone all interview opportunities until the Broncos are done with the postseason. They’ll face the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
Of course, the Browns could hire a candidate from the college ranks.
Vanderbilt University’s James Franklin and Auburn University’s Gus Malzahn are on the Browns’ radar, too, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported. Both are finished with their seasons. Franklin, 41, led Vanderbilt to a 41-24 win over the University of Houston on Saturday in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Malzahn, 48, and Southeastern Conference champion Auburn faced Florida State in the BCS Championship Game Monday night.
A league source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation, confirmed Monday that the Browns won’t interview longtime University of Oklahoma coach and Youngstown native Bob Stoops for their head-coaching vacancy.
This past weekend, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport labeled Stoops a leading candidate for the job and stated he was expected to interview with the Browns this week. On Thursday, former NFL personnel executive Tony Softli wrote on Twitter that Stoops, “may have the inside track on the Cleveland Browns opening.”
Stoops, 53, didn’t silence the rumors last week after he led Oklahoma to a 45-31 victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Asked by Sooners reporters about the rumblings suggesting he could become the next coach of the Browns, Stoops said, “You never know.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired Browns defensive line coach Joe Cullen, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reported Monday.
Cullen is the first Browns assistant coach known to land another gig since Chudzinski was fired. Like Chudzinski, Cullen spent one season with the organization.
Most, if not all, of Chudzinski’s assistants no longer have futures with the Browns, who went 4-12 in 2013 and finished with seven consecutive losses. Last week, Banner said whoever becomes the new head coach would decide whether he wants to retain anyone.
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton is scheduled to interview with the Minnesota Vikings for their head-coaching job today, John Wooten of the Fritz Pollard Alliance said last week via the Detroit Free Press. The alliance advocates the hiring and promotion of minority candidates in the NFL through public education and communication with team and league ownership and management.
Kicker Phil Dawson, who spent the first 14 seasons of his 15-year NFL career with the Browns, finally became part of a postseason victory Sunday night.
Dawson made a game-winning, 33-yard field goal as time expired to lift the San Francisco 49ers to a 23-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the extreme cold at Lambeau Field.
“I waited a long time to win a playoff game,” Dawson said via the San Jose Mercury News. “I finally got to do it, and it was worth the wait.”
Dawson received an outpouring of support from Browns fans on Twitter following the game.
“Hey CLE, just want to thank y’all for your continued love,” Dawson wrote on Twitter Monday. “Much respect & appreciation for y’all.”
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.