The early reports seem to be leaning toward New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels being the leading candidate to be the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Although Bill Belichick could not comment when asked earlier, Albert Breer of NFL.com says that the Patriots will allow the Browns to interview McDaniels while they are on the bye:
Per source, the Patriots have granted the Browns permission to interview offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 31, 2013
Monday night, Will Burge (formerly of ESPN Cleveland) reported that a McDaniels-to-Cleveland plan might have been in place the whole time with the firing of Rob Chudzinski. In fact, he speculates that McDaniels is already putting his staff together for Cleveland:
Mult league sources tell me Josh McDaniels has started calling coaches about staff in CLE. Said jobs his IF he wants but hasn't accepted yet— Will Burge (@WillBurge) December 31, 2013
Browns reached out to McDaniels thru back channels & basically offered on the spot. Source in #Browns said "official" interviews start Tues— Will Burge (@WillBurge) December 31, 2013
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports thinks that it's McDaniels' job to lose:
Once Josh McDaniels interviews for the Browns job, again, I'll have a helluva time thinking someone else gets it— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 30, 2013
Even if Cleveland offers McDaniels the job, there is no guarantee that he will accept -- he may be content to just stay as the offensive coordinator for the Patriots, a gig where he's been mightily successful with quarterback Tom Brady. The Browns are expected to line up plenty of other candidates for interviews over the coming weeks, since they wouldn't be able to officially hire McDaniels until after the Patriots are eliminated from the playoffs. For all we know, that might not be until some time in February.