By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
A new name has surfaced in the Browns’ search for their seventh full-time head coach since 1999, and virtually no one saw it coming.
The Browns will interview Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo today, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed source. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported the interview was set for this week.
The Browns are not commenting on interviews as they look for a coach to replace Rob Chudzinski, who was fired Dec. 29 after he spent just one season on the job. The team went 4-12 under Chudzinski and suffered seven consecutive losses to end the season.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the news about McAdoo is the potential for him to follow a similar career path to that of Andy Reid, one of the most respected head coaches in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Indianapolis Colts in a wild-card game this past weekend, but in his first season with the Chiefs, Reid guided the Chiefs to a record of 11-5 and a postseason berth after a 2-14 season in 2012.
When Browns CEO Joe Banner oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Philadelphia Eagles, he and owner Jeffrey Lurie hired Reid as the team’s head coach in 1999. At the time, Reid was the Packers’ quarterbacks coach and had never previously been a coordinator at any level, let alone a head coach. Reid, though, held the job with the Eagles for 14 seasons and led them to the NFC Championship Game five times and one Super Bowl.
McAdoo, 36, is in the same boat Reid was in when he interviewed with the Eagles 15 years ago. McAdoo, who had a brief stint at the University of Akron in 2004, has always been a position coach and has yet to reach the status of a coordinator. He’s been with the Packers for eight seasons, the first six as their tight ends coach and the past two guiding Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the quarterbacks. Reid also coached the Packers’ tight ends before leading their quarterbacks.
Banner takes great pride in seeing something in Reid that not many others did when he first became a head coach. Banner often points out that eight NFL teams were hiring head coaches in 1999, and only the Eagles gave Reid an interview.
“If you look at my career, I’ve been pretty comfortable projecting people,” Banner told the Beacon Journal in September. “People thought I was crazy when I hired Andy Reid.”
If the Browns hire McAdoo, they would rely on a projection because he has no track record of being in charge of an entire team.
However, Rodgers seems to think McAdoo is ready for the challenge.
“I sent him a text,” Rodgers said Tuesday during his radio show on ESPN Wisconsin. “I said, ‘Make sure you put me down as a reference.’ Just a little pro athlete joke there, but I’m happy for Ben. Any opportunities he gets, he deserves. He’s a guy that works extremely hard. We had a long talk yesterday, and I just continued to echo the things that I felt about him and appreciate about him. He’s a guy who really puts the time in. He’s got an incredible work ethic, and I think he’s really worked hard to become a better coach in the time that we’ve spent together and a guy who I really trust and appreciate for his approach and the way that he makes sure that his guys are prepared.”
When Joe Philbin left his job as offensive coordinator of the Packers to become the head coach of the Miami Dolphins in 2012, Packers coach Mike McCarthy promoted then-quarterbacks coach Tom Clements to offensive coordinator and McAdoo to quarterbacks coach. Rodgers conceded he was initially skeptical about a tight ends coach switching roles and trying to tutor him on the heels of winning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2011 season and a Super Bowl title the previous season. But Rodgers soon realized it was a great fit.
“You can’t help but respect Ben the more time you spend with him because he really cares about his job, and he spends a lot of time there,” Rodgers said. “He puts a lot of effort into our reminder stuff. He listens when you talk. He asks good questions. He understands the nature of certain conversations, which need to stay in the room, which need to be filtered up the chain of command. I just think he’s a guy who wants to learn and really takes to heart the things that I say, the things that he hears from Tom [Clements], and really tried to become a better quarterback coach every day. And he did.
“I think he’s a guy who really understands scheme and preparation and how to install plays. I think he did a great job the last couple years installing the red zone and you saw him in front of the room every week. Every week he got more comfortable. He put more into his presentation. More of his personality came out. There were jokes. There was an ability to control the room. Obviously the people who are interested in him for a head-coaching job haven’t seen that, but to me, that’s an important quality of a head coach, the ability to control a room with your speech, with humor when necessary. And he proved it every day that he was a very prepared coach, and I’m happy for him getting opportunities.”
Before joining the Packers, McAdoo worked with the offensive line and tight ends as an assistant offensive line/quality control coach for the San Francisco 49ers (2005) and New Orleans Saints (2004). McAdoo left two college football programs — Stanford in 2005 and Akron in 2004 — after brief stints during the recruiting season to take the jobs with the 49ers and Saints.
McAdoo spent the 2003 season as an offensive assistant at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2002, he also served as offensive line/tight ends coach at Fairfield University in Connecticut. He started his collegiate coaching career at Michigan State as a special teams/offensive assistant in 2001 after coaching high school football for four years in his home state of Pennsylvania.
McAdoo is the first position coach who has been connected to the Browns’ head-coaching vacancy.
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles are the candidates known to have interviewed with the Browns last week.
The Browns requested to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, but he said he would postpone such opportunities until his team is done with the playoffs.
The Browns also are interested in two college head coaches, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, Jason La Canfora of CBS reported last week.
Franklin, though, has emerged as the clear front-runner for the Penn State job, Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports reported Tuesday.
League rules prohibit teams from offering jobs to NFL assistant coaches whose teams are in the playoffs. So the Browns would need to wait until McDaniels and Quinn are finished with the postseason if they want to strike an agreement with either of them.
The Packers suffered a wild-card loss to the 49ers this past weekend, so McAdoo is free to accept another job at any time. There has been much speculation about McAdoo getting a shot to become the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator because Mike Sherman was fired Monday.
McAdoo worked closely with Philbin before the latter left the Packers.
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.