December 21, 2014

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Browns must decide whether to wait for Broncos OC Adam Gase, Seahawks DC Dan Quinn until after they coach in the Super Bowl

 Adam Gase

Adam Gase

Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase is headed to the Super Bowl and therefore forbidden from interviewing with the Browns until after the big game Feb. 2.

The million-dollar question facing the Browns: Will they wait two more weeks to talk to Gase before hiring a coach?

The Browns aren’t saying, sticking with their policy of not commenting publicly on the coaching search.

But the likely answer is that the Browns will continue with interviews in the interim, then decide whether to make a hire or wait for Gase.

Further complicating the situation is Seattle’s 23-17 win over the 49ers in the NFC championship game Sunday night. Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is believed to be near the top of the Browns’ list with Gase, but NFL rules won’t allow him to be hired until after the Super Bowl.

Dan Quinn

Dan Quinn

Unlike Gase, however, Quinn can meet with the Browns this week. Rules allow a second interview to take place during the off week before the Super Bowl if the employer club (Seattle) allows and the meeting takes place by the Sunday before the Super Bowl.

Quinn interviewed with the Browns on Jan. 1 during Seattle’s first-round bye and reportedly made a good impression. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported Quinn is interested in the Browns’ job, and former Redskins coordinator Kyle Shanahan and ex-Texans head coach Gary Kubiak are possibilities to be his offensive coordinator.

Cleveland’s search enters its fourth week today. The Browns are the only team remaining in the league with a vacancy.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has a second interview planned for early in the week. A league source told The Chronicle-Telegram no second interviews had been set yet.

Pettine, 47, was a surprise addition to the interview list last week. The Bills didn’t make the playoffs, yet it took the Browns nearly three weeks before they met with him.

Buffalo ranked 10th in overall defense and set a franchise record with 57 sacks in Pettine’s first year with the team. He spent the previous four years as Jets coordinator for a defense that finished in the top 10 each year.

Gase was the first interview requested by the Browns after Rob Chudzinski was fired Dec. 29 after going 4-12 in his only season. Gase declined interviews with the Browns and Vikings until Denver was done with the postseason so he could focus on the job at hand. That means he won’t be permitted to interview with the Browns until after the Super Bowl, and they may not be willing to wait that long to sit down with him.

But Gase remains an intriguing possibility, even if he’s far from a sure thing.

He’s 35 and in his first year as coordinator and play caller for the record-setting Denver offense that put up 507 yards on Bill Belichick’s Patriots in a 26-16 win in the AFC championship game. Of course, Gase has the benefit of working with Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks and audibilers in the history of the NFL.

Browns CEO Joe Banner seems to prefer a young, offensive-minded coach, and Gase fits that description perfectly. But he’s never been a head coach and may need more seasoning.

Even if the Browns decide he’s ready, Gase may choose to stay in Denver. Cleveland.com reported Saturday he’s leaning toward returning to the Broncos, setting up a run at a head coaching job after next season. But ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday, citing a source, Gase is “absolutely interested” in listening to the Browns, and he’ll give them the chance to win him over.

Quinn was with the Seahawks in 2009-10, left to be defensive coordinator at the University of Florida, then returned to Seattle as coordinator this year. The Seahawks had the NFL’s top defense, leading in points allowed (14.4 per game), yards per game (273.6) and yards per play (4.4).

With San Francisco’s elimination, the Browns could add offensive coordinator Greg Roman, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and special teams coordinator Brad Seely to the candidate list immediately.

The Browns have reportedly already interviewed eight coaches: Quinn, Pettine, recently fired Titans coach Mike Munchak, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo and Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

Whisenhunt was hired as head coach of the Titans, McAdoo as coordinator of the Giants, and McDaniels and Bowles withdrew from consideration.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.