By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
The Browns didn’t pick Ken Whisenhunt to become their coach last year, but they’re compelled to give him a chance to convince them that they were wrong.
The Browns will interview Whisenhunt on Saturday for their head-coaching vacancy, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday. Whisenhunt, the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, interviewed with the Detroit Lions on Thursday and has a meeting scheduled Friday with the Tennessee Titans, according to the report.
The Browns interviewed Whisenhunt twice last year, and he became a finalist for the coaching job before they chose Rob Chudzinski instead. Chudzinski went 4-12 and was fired Dec. 29 after his first season on the job.
Browns CEO Joe Banner left himself some wiggle room last week when he said, “I don’t think there will be anybody from last year’s search who will be a candidate this year.” Whisenhunt, 51, obviously would be an exception.
NFL rules prohibit teams from offering jobs to coaches who are still in the postseason. The Chargers will face the Denver Broncos in a divisional playoff game Sunday night. In his first season with the Chargers, Whisenhunt helped the offense finish the regular season ranked fifth in the NFL (393.3 yards per game).
Whisenhunt was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals for six seasons. They fired him after the team started 4-0 but ended the 2012 season with a 5-11 record.
He compiled a regular-season record of 45-51 with the Cardinals and went 4-2 in the playoffs. He guided the Cardinals to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season, when they lost 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Whisenhunt was a special-teams coach for the Browns during their expansion season in 1999. He later served as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator from 2004-06 before becoming the Cardinals’ coach in 2007.
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam bought a minority stake in the Steelers in 2008, so he is familiar with people who know Whisenhunt well from his days in Pittsburgh. He and Banner also got to know Whisenhunt better through the interview process last year.
Whisenhunt was an NFL tight end for nine seasons (1985-93). He played for the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and New York Jets.
The Browns have interviewed New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, according to reports. The team is not commenting on interviews.
McDaniels, though, removed himself from consideration for the job after he reached out to the Browns following his interview Saturday and was told he wasn’t the front-runner, a league source said Wednesday night, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the search.
NFL Network’s Albert Breer reported the primary reason for McDaniels staying with the Patriots is to create stability for his family. He and his wife have four young children.
The first interview request the Browns submitted went to Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. However, Gase said he would postpone all interview opportunities until the Broncos are done with the playoffs.
The Browns are also interested in two college head coaches, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported last week. But Franklin is expected to become the next coach at Penn State, according to reports.
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.