BEREA: If Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner do what most people expect them to do, they’ll fire coach Pat Shurmur not long after the season finale Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers and begin the process of formally interviewing candidates next week.

In the past month, multiple national reports have linked University of Alabama coach Nick Saban, University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Browns’ anticipated vacancy. The list of names to watch also should probably include former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

But of all the potential candidates, there might not be a hotter realistic option for the Browns than Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

After Colts coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, the Colts announced Oct. 1 that Arians would serve as their interim coach. They were 1-2 coming off a bye and in danger of coming unglued, but Arians held them together despite their record of 2-14 last season and all the adversity they faced as Pagano began to fight for his life. Arians guided the Colts to a 9-3 record and a postseason berth in Pagano’s absence.

Banner has harped on how important it is for a head coach to possess desirable leadership qualities. Arians, 60, obviously isn’t lacking in that category, and now he has proof.

“You see what he does with offenses,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played for Arians while he was an assistant for the Steelers, said this week during a conference call. “You see what he can do with a team like the Colts. No disrespect to a lot of the Colts’ players, but they’ve got a lot of guys that people probably haven’t heard of. They’re playing obviously with some motivation for Coach Pagano. But [Arians] knows how to motivate guys, and they want to play for him and he’s a players’ coach. He listens to what the assistant coaches and the players have to say. He’s not an ego guy, so I think all those tangibles can make him a good head coach.”

During Peyton Manning’s first three NFL seasons (1998-2000), Arians tutored him as the quarterbacks coach of the Colts. He then became the offensive coordinator of the Browns and was fired by former coach Butch Davis after the team went 5-11 in 2003 following a playoff appearance the previous season.

Arians, a former head coach at Temple University, went on to become the wide receivers coach of the Steelers (2004-06) before serving as their offensive coordinator (2007-11). He was part of three Super Bowl appearances, including two wins. In his current job, he helps direct rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

Haslam bought a minority stake in the Steelers in 2008, so he’s familiar with Arians. And Banner has strong ties to Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson because they worked together for nine years with the Philadelphia Eagles. Grigson told the Indianapolis Star that Arians is “a no-brainer” for Coach of the Year.

Arians will certainly have more than one suitor. Here’s hoping that the Browns aggressively pursue.

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Browns running back Trent Richardson’s rookie season is done because he has been officially ruled out for Sunday with an injured left ankle. He finished with 267 carries for 950 yards (3.6 average) and 11 touchdowns, plus 51 catches for 367 yards (7.2 average) and one touchdown.

Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, had a disappointing season because of his average per carry. But anyone who believes Richardson is a bust needs a reality check.

Richardson had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 9 but returned in time for the regular season. He then suffered a rib injury on Oct. 14 and kept playing through it. The Browns and Richardson called it a rib cartilage injury, but Richardson hinted last week that he had broken ribs when he revealed his initial worry about playing hurt was, “Can I hurt my lungs?”

On Friday, running backs coach Gary Brown said, “I was told it was rib cartilage.” But before Brown was asked specifically about the nature of the injury, he spoke as if Richardson’s ribs were broken.

“I don’t know if anyone in here has ever had a broken rib, but you can’t breathe, you can’t twist, you can’t turn,” Brown said. “So for us to go out there and expect him to be the Trent that we all saw at Alabama, I think that we were putting a little bit too much on him. He went out and played and showed he’s a very mentally and physically tough kid. He went out and played at a high level for what we thought we could get from him with the rib.

“But I don’t think it was at a level that he wanted. I think he holds himself to such a high standard, even though when he was running hard and playing well, he just didn’t feel like Trent. So God willing he’s going to come back strong from the rib and the knee is strong, and then the city of Cleveland will see exactly what Trent Richardson is, and I believe that’s going to be a top-flight running back in this league.”

Brown, who played running back for eight seasons in the NFL, said most players “absolutely” would have sat out with the rib injury Richardson suffered.

“I’d probably shut it down,” Brown said. “You have to be so focused on your craft and your profession to be able to fight through the pain. Even if they give you all the pain medicine in the world, you’ve still got to be able to fight through that. For him to do that, I take my hat off to that.”

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Browns rookie wide receiver Josh Cooper has retired. Not from the NFL, but from Twitter. He got rid of his account this week.

So even though veteran return man and receiver Josh Cribbs set a bad example for his younger teammates by lashing out at some critical fans with a profanity-laced tweet Sunday night following the Browns’ 34-12 loss to the Denver Broncos, a valuable lesson was learned.

“There were times when I’d type something out to respond to something that somebody said to me negatively, and I’d just delete it,” Cooper said. “I didn’t want to be one of those guys that responded negatively to somebody and something bad happens.”

Cooper is a soft-spoken, even-keeled guy. But even he was occasionally tempted to fire back when provoked on Twitter.

“I have my moments,” Cooper said. “So I didn’t want it to happen like that, be a headline or get in trouble for something.”

Professional athletes are often criticized for doing or saying stupid things. Cooper deserves credit for doing just the opposite.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com.