Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus updated his resume to include a notable accomplishment on the eve of his head coaching interview with the Browns.
Eberflus guided the Colts to a dominant defensive performance on the road in their 21-7 win over the Houston Texans on Saturday night in an AFC wild-card game.
Then, on Sunday, the Toledo native became the sixth candidate to interview with the Browns for their head coaching vacancy.
The others are New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, New Orleans Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, former Detroit Lions and Colts coach Jim Caldwell and Browns interim coach Gregg Williams.
The list is expected to continue to grow as General Manager John Dorsey leads the search.
On Sunday, ESPN reported Dorsey, owner Jimmy Haslam, Executive Vice President JW Johnson, Assistant GM Eliot Wolf, Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta and Vice President of Player Personnel Andrew Berry form the search committee. A Browns spokesman said others are involved too but declined to elaborate. It would be logical for owner Dee Haslam and VP of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith to aid with the search as well. Dorsey had previously refused to reveal who was on the committee.
The Browns reportedly requested permission to interview Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. Dorsey said Dec. 31 the Browns would interview offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens at some point, and NFL Network reported it'll take place early this week. They'll also reportedly interview former Packers coach Mike McCarthy this week.
The Browns have a history of hiring head coaches who previously worked for them. Eberflus, a linebackers coach on Eric Mangini's Browns staff from 2009-10, has a chance to become the fourth since 1999. Mangini, Rob Chudzinski and Romeo Crennel were all Browns assistants who later became the team's head coach.
Eberflus, 48, played linebacker at the University of Toledo, then joined the Rockets' coaching staff as a student assistant in 1992. He stayed there until 2000, working as a recruiting coordinator and coaching outside linebackers and defensive backs.
When Gary Pinkel left Toledo to coach at Missouri in 2001, he brought Eberflus along and named him defensive coordinator, even though he was only 29 at the time. He spent eight seasons there before making a leap to the NFL in 2009 as a position coach under former Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. He was then the linebackers coach (2011-15) and passing game coordinator/linebackers coach (2016-17) of the Dallas Cowboys before receiving his first shot to become an NFL defensive coordinator.
However, there was a curveball.
Eberflus left the Cowboys after seven seasons to join the staff of Josh McDaniels last year in Indianapolis, but McDaniels wound up backing out of his agreement to coach the Colts and remained the offensive coordinator of the Patriots.
Colts GM Chris Ballard, a friend of Dorsey who worked with him in the front office of the Kansas City Chiefs, assured Eberflus he would remain defensive coordinator no matter who became the head coach.
Former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich got the job, and his strange arrangement with Eberflus has worked.
"Chris was very persuasive and very strong in his conviction that Matt was the right guy," Reich said, according to ESPN.com. "It really couldn't have worked out any better. I know it's crazy. It's really an odd way for it to come together, but it literally couldn't have come together any better.
"Personally, Matt, I just have a lot of respect for him. [His] high character and integrity as a person — just stands for everything that we would want — carries himself the way we would want a coach to carry himself."
The Colts went 10-6, earned a wild-card berth and shut out quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Texans for the first three quarters of Saturday's playoff win in Houston. The Texans went 11-5 in the regular season and had not been held to fewer than 17 points until they faced Eberflus' defense Saturday. On Dec. 2, the Texans triumphed 29-13 over the visiting Browns, whose defense was coordinated by Williams.
Eberflus runs a 4-3, Cover-2 zone defense, which would mesh well with the personnel of the Browns, and the implementation of his system created an impressive turnaround in Indianapolis. The Colts finished the regular season ranked 11th in yards (339.4) and 10th in points (21.5) allowed per game. Last season, before Eberflus arrived, they were 30th in both yards (367.1) and points (25.3) surrendered a game.
Because Eberflus is a nonoffensive play caller, he fits into the category of candidates who might be agreeable to keeping Kitchens. The offense thrived under Kitchens in the last half of the season, and the Browns have denied him permission to interview with other teams for offensive coordinator gigs.
By rule, the Browns had to wait until after the Colts played their wild-card game to interview Eberflus. If they want to hire him, they wouldn't be allowed to finalize a contract with him until the Colts are done with the playoffs.
In the meantime, the NFL's window for the Browns to interview assistants whose teams had a wild-card bye has closed. Notable names they didn't interview while the window was open are McDaniels, a Canton McKinley High School graduate; Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy; and Chiefs assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Now the Browns cannot interview those coaches, unless they wait until their teams are done with the playoffs.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.