BEREA: On Monday, owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner made it clear they wanted to begin interviewing candidates for the Browns’ head-coaching vacancy as soon as possible.
Neither of the team’s new bigwigs seems like the type to waste time.
On Tuesday, Banner was in Arizona, where he interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Jason La Canfora of CBS reported. After firing coach Pat Shurmur and General Manager Tom Heckert on Monday, the Browns are looking for their sixth full-time head coach since 1999. Haslam and Banner said they would hire the coach first and then find a personnel executive to complement him.
The Browns would comply with the Rooney Rule by interviewing Horton. The rule requires NFL teams with a head-coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate.
Haslam and Banner won’t comment on interviews.
Horton, 52, interviewed with the Cardinals on Tuesday, the team’s vice president of media relations, Mark Dalton, tweeted. The Cardinals also will interview coach Andy Reid today, La Canfora reported. Reid, whom the Philadelphia Eagles fired Monday, is the front-runner for the job, according to multiple reports.
Horton, meanwhile, will also reportedly interview with the Buffalo Bills. In Horton’s two seasons with the Cardinals, the defense ranked 12th (337.8 yards allowed per game) in 2012 and tied for 18th (355.1) in 2011.
Haslam bought a minority stake in the Steelers in 2008, so he should be familiar with Horton, who was a defensive backs coach for the Steelers from 2004-10. The Steelers finished with a top-10 defense in each of Horton’s seven seasons with the team.
Horton played defensive back in the NFL from 1983-92. The Cincinnati Bengals selected him in the second round (53rd overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft. He also played for the Dallas Cowboys, winning Super Bowl XXVII in the final game of his career.
The Browns are also scheduled to interview Syracuse University coach Doug Marrone, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Fox Sports’ Alex Marvez reported.
Marrone, 48, is also reportedly set to interview with the Bills. A former NFL offensive lineman, Marrone served as the offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints from 2006-08. The Saints ranked first in total offense (410.7 yards per game) in 2008, fourth (361.2) in 2007 and first (391.5) in 2006.
Marrone joined Syracuse in 2009 and has compiled a record of 25-25.
Koetter, 53, joined the Falcons in 2012 after serving as the offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-11. In his first season with the Falcons, they had the NFL’s eighth-ranked offense (369.1 yards per game) and were seventh in scoring (26.2 points per game).
Koetter also has 22 years of collegiate coaching experience. He was the head coach at Arizona State University (2001-06) and Boise State University (1998-2000).
The Falcons are in the playoffs but have a bye this weekend. So the Browns can interview Koetter this week, but the interview would need to take place before the conclusion of this weekend’s wild-card games, per NFL rules.
Ready to return?
The coaching bug never left former Browns President Mike Holmgren, and he never ruled out a return to the sidelines on his way out of Cleveland.
ESPN’s Ed Werder recently asked Holmgren about a return to coaching.
“If anyone is interested, I’ll listen,” Holmgren said.
Holmgren spent his last day with the Browns on Nov. 30 after essentially being replaced by Banner, Haslam’s right-hand man who oversees all aspects of the organization, including football operations.
When the Browns visited the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 18, Werder reported Holmgren only had interest in coaching the Cowboys. But a vacancy wasn’t created because coach Jason Garrett kept his job.
Now Holmgren, 64, says he’s willing to entertain other opportunities. As a head coach, he guided the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one, and the Seattle Seahawks to another.
Holmgren considered coaching the Browns after he fired Eric Mangini following the 2010 season.
“I thought a lot about it, what I was willing to do, what I wasn’t willing to do, who I thought I could hire,” Holmgren said in October. “At that particular time, I wasn’t ready to do it again. I didn’t want to do it. I thought I’d be short-changing the organization.”
So Holmgren hired Shurmur to coach the Browns. Shurmur went 9-23 in two seasons before being ousted along with Heckert, whom Holmgren hired in 2010.
For months, NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi has been linked to the Browns as a candidate to head their personnel department. Lombardi, who worked for the Browns (1987-95), spent two years with Banner and the Eagles (1997-98).
Lombardi hasn’t worked for a team since the Oakland Raiders fired him in 2007.
La Canfora reported Monday that Lombardi is well positioned to land a job with the Browns and former Chicago Bears and Eagles personnel man Bobby DePaul could as well.
DePaul was director of player personnel for the Bears from 2001-10.
DePaul most recently coached linebackers for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL and also served as their player personnel director. The Browns and Mountain Lions have a connection. Backup quarterback Josh Johnson played for the UFL team in 2012.
If Reid takes control of the Cardinals, could some former Browns be heading to work in the desert?
During his tenure with the Eagles, Reid worked with Shurmur and Heckert. Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress is also a former lieutenant of Reid. Shurmur considers Reid his mentor.
Conflicting reports surfaced Tuesday about whether Heckert would join the Cardinals if Reid becomes the coach.
Either way, Heckert is a candidate to become the New York Jets’ general manager, La Canfora 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.