The Browns aren’t twiddling their thumbs while they wait to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
They interviewed Mike Munchak on Monday in Tennessee, according to an ESPN report. The Browns aren’t publicly commenting on the coaching search.
Munchak was fired by the Tennessee Titans on Jan. 4 after 31 years with the organization, including the last three as head coach. He went 22-26, including 7-9 in 2013.
Ken Whisenhunt was hired Monday by the Titans to replace Munchak. Whisenhunt was perhaps the most qualified candidate interviewed by the Browns. He spent this season as Chargers offensive coordinator after six years and a Super Bowl trip as coach of the Cardinals.
The Browns interviewed Whisenhunt on Saturday. They also met with him twice last year before deciding on Rob Chudzinski.
Gase was the first interview requested by the Browns this season after the firing of Chudzinski, who went 4-12 in his only season. But Gase, 35, declined until the Broncos are done with the playoffs so he can concentrate on the job at hand.
Denver hosts the Patriots on Sunday in the AFC championship game. A loss, and Gase is expected to quickly interview with the Browns. A win, and he won’t be permitted to meet with them until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
The Browns appear willing to wait on the first-year coordinator as their search is in its third week. The Denver Post, citing two NFL sources, reported the Browns are waiting for Gase to become available before they hire a coach. Some have inferred that means he’s the front-runner to get the job, but that’s premature given the lack of an interview.
The Broncos scored an NFL-record 606 points and led the league with 457.3 yards and 340.3 yards passing per game. Peyton Manning set an NFL record with 55 touchdown passes and had a 115.1 rating.
The Broncos beat the Chargers 24-17 Sunday, holding on after Manning connected on a 21-yard pass to tight end Julius Thomas down the right sideline on third-and-17 with 3:06 to play. The Broncos never surrendered the ball and ran out the clock.
“Great play call by Adam Gase,” Manning said. “Really big-time play call. He knew what the look would be, and then a good catch by Julius.”
Manning and Munchak share a Tennessee connection with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. Manning and Haslam are University of Tennessee alumni, while Munchak spent the last 17 years in Nashville with the Titans.
Munchak, 53, was a first-round draft pick of the Houston Oilers in 1982 and went to nine Pro Bowls in a 12-year career at guard, earning induction to the Hall of Fame in 2001. He became an offensive quality control assistant in 1994 and transferred to the offensive line in 1997 when the organization moved from Houston. He was promoted to head coach in 2011.
The Titans went 9-7, 6-10 and 7-9 in his three seasons.
“This is a day I hoped would never come, but there is a reason for everything,” Munchak said in a statement after he was fired Jan. 4. “Words cannot express the sadness for leaving this organization that I have been a part of for over 30 years.
“My goal as head coach was to do things the right way with the right people and I felt confident that the results would follow. Sometimes rebuilding a team and its culture takes time, but I truly believe we were on the verge of great things. Unfortunately my vision did not match that of the organization, so we will part ways.”
Munchak wasn’t fired until nearly a week after the season finale. He was offered an extension if he would fire several members of his coaching staff but refused. He was then fired.
“I can’t fire someone when I don’t believe they should be fired,” Munchak told the Tennessean. “Firing someone is awful. Too many people were going to be affected … . For me to maintain a job and a lot of guys lose jobs on a plan I didn’t think was right, I couldn’t do that. I’ll make tough decisions, but not if they’re not right.”
Munchak has also interviewed for head coaching jobs with the Detroit Lions and Penn State, his alma mater, and the offensive line job with the Houston Texans. Detroit has yet to hire a coach, while Penn State hired Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, who also drew interest from the Browns.
The Browns have also interviewed Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. McDaniels has withdrawn from consideration.
Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman could also be added to the interview list, as the Browns continue to expand the search.
The renovation of FirstEnergy Stadium began after Cleveland’s home finale Dec. 15, progressed last week and will continue this week with the disconnection of the end zone scoreboards and plumbing systems. Demolition and construction equipment is scheduled to arrive this week, and the cranes will be assembled on site.
The decommission of the exterior of the east end zone is set for late this month, with demolition of the end zones and lower bowl scheduled for late January and February.
The postseason awards continued to roll in for Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and receiver Josh Gordon, who were named to the All-NFL team by the Pro Football Writers of America.
Thomas earned his fourth All-NFL honor in seven seasons. He was previously voted to his seventh Pro Bowl and the AP All-Pro team. San Francisco’s Joe Staley was the other tackle on the All-NFL team.
Gordon, in his second season, also joined Thomas on the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams for the first time. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson was the other receiver.
The Browns were one of nine teams with two players chosen for the All-NFL team. Kansas City led with three.
Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron, center Alex Mack and cornerback Joe Haden were named to the All-AFC team.
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