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Browns coaching search takes an unexpected twist

Jan 17, 2014 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

Photo/USATSI

The Morning Kickoff …

The bizarro search: If I didn’t know better I’d swear the Browns’ coaching search has been taken out of the hands of CEO Joe Banner and placed in control of one of those headhunter firms.

Mike Munchak? Mike Pettine? Rich Bisaccia? Could Perry Fewell be next?

These men, fine coaches in their respective specialties, certainly don’t fit Banner’s prototype of young, out-of-the-box, offensive-minded, up-and-comers.

Munchak, 53, who fired himself as Tennessee Titans coach rather than fire some of his assistants, was interviewed this week. He is a Hall of Fame guard and one of the pre-eminent offensive line coaches in NFL history.

Pettine, 47, was a Rex Ryan disciple with Baltimore and then the Jets. He stepped out of Ryan’s large shadow last year and earned kudos in his first season as defensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills under first-year coach Doug Marrone. Pettine was interviewed by the Browns on Thursday. By the end of the day, there were reports that Pettine’s daughter Tweeted that her father was receiving a second interview with the Browns.

Bisaccia, 53, is a long-time NFL special teams coach who most recently was with the Dallas Cowboys. He reportedly will interview with the Browns on Saturday. Interestingly, Bisaccia in recent years was reported to be courted by the University of Tennessee twice for a special teams position. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is an ardent supporter of the Volunteers football program.

These three join five others who received interviews for the Browns’ job, which now is the lone vacancy in the NFL ranks. The others were Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Green Bay quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo and Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

Bowles and McDaniels have since withdrawn from consideration. McAdoo accepted an offer to be New York Giants offensive coordinator and Whisenhunt was named head coach of the Tennessee Titans.

So, still in the running for the Browns’ job are Quinn, Munchak, Pettine and Bisaccia.

If that were a Final Four, Quinn might be a No. 1 seed, but the others would be, say, an eighth, 15th and 16th.  Just shocking.

The Gase update: Interesting developments in Denver concerning Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, who is believed to be the Browns’ No. 1 choice.

Gase, 35, is the prototype Banner hire -- under radar, untested, offensive genius-in-waiting, not a firebrand. The next Andy Reid.

Gase has some key connections. 1. He’s represented by Bob LaMonte, whom Banner has dealt with extensively. 2. He worked under Nick Saban at LSU. 3. He was brought to Denver by former Broncos coach McDaniels. 4. He has the utmost respect of Peyton Manning, who is close to Haslam.

Manning made a point after the Broncos’ divisional playoff win over San Diego last Sunday to credit Gase for calling the play that resulted in the 21-yard completion to tight end Julius Thomas on third-and-17 late in the game.

In the buildup to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against New England, Gase has received more media attention than ever in his career.

On Thursday, John Elway, long-time Browns nemesis and current Broncos chief football executive, spoke extensively about Gase and indicated he didn’t want to lose him as the team’s offensive coordinator.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, Elway said, “I wish I could have played for him. I think that he's so bright and he's working with Peyton and having been here with Josh (McDaniels) before that -- who is a very bright, young offensive mind -- he has just used all of that and learned from all that. With (former offensive coordinator Mike) McCoy here, then Peyton here and now him on his own, he's been able to put them all together and mold it as his personality and I think he's done a tremendous job. That shows up in the numbers we've put up this year."

Gase was the first candidate the Browns sought permission to interview. But he declined to interview until the Broncos’ season was finished.

Asked if he thought the Broncos could keep Gase from leaving, Elway said, “You know, I don't know. I hope so. He's done a tremendous job. He's had a great year and he's just got such a great feel, and he's a hard worker and he's very bright. I hope he stays but -- I thought it was, to me, I couldn't think for him to be able to do what he did and to say 'I want to keep my focus on the Denver Broncos and once our season is over I'll interview.' To me that was studly because it was to me, I like guys that are committed to what they're doing, committed to the Denver Broncos. So I couldn't be more proud of that decision. It tells you a lot about the guy."

Now what?: All along, I thought Gase was Banner’s first choice on paper. As the Browns’ search unfolded, I thought Gase – through back-channel discussions -- was all but a done deal.

Now I think:

1. The Browns are scrambling for alternatives in the increasing possibility that Gase will stay in Denver.

2. Quinn is still a candidate because the Browns adore the Seattle Seahawks’ operation. They view the Seahawks as the NFL’s model franchise.

3. The Browns would be nuts not to interview 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

4. Haslam is not happy.

 

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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