BEREA — General Manager John Dorsey will interview interim coach Gregg Williams and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens as he leads the search for the ninth full-time head coach of the Browns since 1999, but the quest will go far beyond auditioning internal candidates.
Dorsey explained he doesn't want to settle for a limited field because he believes the Browns have a very desirable opening, especially with quarterback Baker Mayfield and defensive end Myles Garrett headlining a young, talented roster.
"You don't want to sell yourself short. Why not go see other people out there, too, just to see?" Dorsey said Monday during a news conference. "Because you want to do your due diligence — and we talk about doing our due diligence and what's best for this organization — why not go and look at everybody?"
Dorsey might not be exaggerating much when he says "everybody."
The Browns have requested permission to interview Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, New Orleans Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell, New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, a former Cleveland linebackers coach, according to multiple reports.
They have reached out to former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, the Toronto Sun reported, and they're expected to interview Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio. They're interested in interviewing former Detroit Lions and Colts coach Jim Caldwell, per NFL Network.
Dorsey wouldn't disclose which candidates he'll interview. Asked about Flores, Dorsey called him "a very highly qualified young man." In response to a question about McCarthy, Dorsey said, "I have a lot of respect for Mike McCarthy and for what he’s done."
The Miami Dolphins fired coach Adam Gase on Monday — eight NFL teams are now seeking head coaches — and he's another name to watch because Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has pursued him in the past. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is another coach with whom the Browns have flirted previously during Haslam's reign.
On the heels of the Browns finishing the season with a 26-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and a record of 7-8-1, Dorsey said they'll interview Williams on Tuesday and Kitchens at an undisclosed time. The Browns went 5-3 after promoting Williams and Kitchens on Oct. 29, the same day they fired coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
"I want to see [Williams'] overarching vision and plan for this organization moving forward," Dorsey said. "I want to hear his thoughts on the team moving forward, but I also want to be able to explore multiple options out there in the National Football League and just see who fits for this organization moving forward. There may be some guys out there we don’t know about yet. I just want to explore all options and make the best decision for this organization."
The Browns obviously could explore the college ranks, too, with Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley and Iowa State's Matt Campbell among the coaches who have been linked to them. Riley has said he plans to stay with the Sooners, but that doesn't mean the Browns wouldn't make a pitch.
Dorsey said he hasn't put a timetable on hiring a coach. He explained he has formed a search committee but refused to specify who's on it.
Although Jimmy and Dee Haslam have given Dorsey the authority to guide the search, the hire will hinge on ownership signing off on it.
"We have spent six weeks very methodically and diligently trying to put this whole thing together in terms of what's best for this organization moving forward," Dorsey said, "and hopefully we've earned the trust from ownership when we make a recommendation with them that we feel that this is the best coach moving forward, hopefully we've earned that trust and they respect that."
Dorsey wouldn't specify how many candidates are on his list, but he said he's had them in his mind since before the Browns hired him on Dec. 7, 2017.
"What do you want?" Dorsey said. "You want a man of character, a guy who can instill leadership into these young men, a guy who’s a collaborative thinker, a guy who’s a continuous learner, a guy who’s consistent on a day-in, day-out basis, who those players can look up to and go, 'You know what? I’ll follow that guy anywhere.' "
With character being one of the main criteria, does Dorsey view Williams' suspension from the NFL for the 2012 season for his role in the Saints' bounty scandal as a strike against him?
"I think he’s paid his penalty for that," Dorsey said, adding the Browns will "factor in everything" during the interview process.
As Browns players cleaned out their lockers and went through exit interviews with Dorsey, tight end David Njoku said if Williams and Kitchens were to be retained, players "would not be surprised because they did a great job here."
"I like what [Williams has] done in the last eight weeks, and I applaud him for that because he's kind of got these guys believing," Dorsey said. "He's brought them in together as one. He's got them playing hard. That's all you can ask for."
Kitchens elevated Mayfield and the entire offense. Dorsey said Mayfield won't have any say in the coaching search.
"He's moved the ball," Dorsey said. "He's gotten the ball out of the quarterback's hands quicker. I think he's put some flair and different route combinations together that help out the quarterback. I just think overall he's kind of moved the bar on the offensive side of the ball."
Could Kitchens return as offensive coordinator if someone else becomes the head coach?
"Whoever the head coach will be in the future, I think he’s got to have the ability to hire his staff," Dorsey said. "Will we make suggestions? Yeah, I think that’s what all people do. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be whoever that head coach is, it’s going to be his decision if [Kitchens] stays or if he leaves."
Center JC Tretter said he trusts Dorsey and his lieutenants to decide whether continuity on the coaching staff is needed.
"You have to kind of step back, and I think that's what the guys upstairs are going to do," Tretter said. "They're going to look for the best thing for the next five, 10 years."
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.