BEREA — The Browns started the search for their next coach immediately. That’s a necessity because they aren’t alone in the market. After the NFL’s version of Black Monday, six teams were looking for coaches.
It looks like the Browns’ focus will be on another native son of Ohio.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was among the group of NFL assistants the Browns requested permission Monday to interview. He is an early front-runner to replace Rob Chudzinski, a Toledo native who was fired Sunday night after a season-ending 20-7 loss to the Steelers. The Browns went 4-12 in his only season.
McDaniels, 37, is a native of Canton and attended Canton McKinley High School and John Carroll University. He was 32 years old when he became head coach of the Broncos in 2009. He went 11-17 before getting fired in his second season.
The Browns also requested permission to interview Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Gase, in his first year in the job, declined the request until after the Broncos are done with the playoffs.
Denver, New England and Seattle have first-round byes this week. NFL rules state that if the employer club grants permission, the interview must be conducted prior to the conclusion of wild-card weekend Sunday night.
Houston, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Washington also have vacancies after firing their coaches.
“I don’t know if it will take a week or a month,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said of his search. “The important thing is to get it right. There’ll be all kinds of rumors out there. We understand that. We’re not going to respond to any of them.”
McDaniels declined a request by the Browns last year because he didn’t want to move his family again after going back to New England. Indications are he’d be more inclined to interview this year. He has a strong relationship with Browns general manager Michael Lombardi and they share a connection to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
McDaniels rejoined the Patriots in 2012 after the time in Denver and a year as coordinator in St. Louis. All 10 of his seasons in New England have come under Belichick.
The Patriots’ offense ranked third in scoring (27.8 points per game) and seventh in yards (384.5).
Quinn is lesser known to Northeast Ohio fans.
He is in his first year as Seattle’s coordinator after two years as coordinator/defensive line coach at the University of Florida. He’s in his 11th year as an NFL assistant and has spent most of his career working with the defensive line.
The Seahawks’ defense ranks first in the league in points allowed (14.4 per game), yards per game (273.6) and yards per play (4.4).
Gase, 35, spent the previous two years as quarterbacks coach and the two years before that as receivers coach for Denver. Led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos scored an NFL-record 606 points.
“I’m appreciative of the interest I’ve received, but I’ve decided to postpone any potential opportunities until after our season concludes,” Gase told the Denver Post. “My complete focus is helping our team prepare for our divisional playoff game.”
Bowles is in his first season as Cardinals coordinator. He’s also been an assistant with Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, Cleveland (2001-04, working with the secondary) and the Jets.
The Vikings also requested permission to interview Quinn and Bowles.
Other possibilities for the Browns are Jim Schwartz, who was fired by the Lions on Monday, former Bears coach Lovie Smith and Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Jay’s brother Jon, the “Monday Night Football” analyst, said he’s doesn’t want to be considered for jobs.
CEO Joe Banner said it was undetermined if he and Haslam would interview any members of Chudzinski’s staff. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is the most likely possibility after interviewing last year.
Banner said he didn’t think they’d interview any of the outside candidates they talked to last year. That would scratch Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt from the list.
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer told reporters in Florida he wouldn’t be interested in the Browns opening.
Banner met with Chudzinski’s assistants Monday morning and they remained under contract.
“But we’ve indicated to them we’ll be very liberal in agreeing to any permission requested by any other team to talk to them,” Banner said.
He also indicated the next coach will pick his own staff.
“If you hire a new head coach, you have to empower him to make those decisions and those decisions will be completely in the hands of whoever we hire,” Banner said.
Banner doesn’t think the next coach will inherit a long rebuilding project.
“I don’t think in this era, especially in the situation with the cap and the draft, I don’t think we’re asking people to sit still for some long-term plan,” Banner said. “You see three teams that were picking at the top of the draft last year who had new coaches are in the playoffs right now. I’m not predicting that because that doesn’t always happen, but the ideal of seeing progress and meaningful progress is something we don’t have a problem with anyone expecting and demanding of us.”
The Chiefs, Chargers and Eagles made the playoffs with Andy Reid, Mike McCoy and Chip Kelly in their first seasons.