Team president Mike Holmgren did not reveal any of the candidates that he would be bringing in for interviews when he met with the Cleveland media Monday afternoon. The press conference, which can be seen here, did not reveal a whole lot beyond what we already know -- Eric Mangini was let go this morning, and now the search for the team's next head coach will begin. Holmgren stated that he told the team's assistant coaches to take the week off and that he could confer with them again next Monday. That means that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, special teams coach Brad Seely, and all of the other assistants are still under contract, but their futures are in doubt.
While Holmgren did not reveal any names, throughout the day the media has been reporting on potential candidates for the Browns' vacant head coaching position. You have to wonder how some of these "names" get thrown in there sometimes, but here is the list of early candidates:
Mike Holmgren: The one thing he ruled out for sure in his press conference was that he would not leave Cleveland to become a head coach with the San Francisco 49ers or anything like that this offseason. While he was firm about going through the process of interviewing for a head coach and I believe he would like to find the right guy, if he is not satisfied with any of the candidates, I think there is still a chance he will step into the role himself.
Jon Gruden: Ignoring the thought of Holmgren stepping in, Gruden seems to be the fan favorite amongst Browns fans. If you're looking for two simple reasons, then here they are: he won with Oakland, and he won with Tampa Bay. With both teams, he had a lot of veteran players to work with. Rather than thinking of those guys as being "veteran" players though, I'd like to think of them as being a "talented" group of players instead. Holmgren and Heckert have already supplied one offseason of upgraded personnel. If they can have another strong offseason, I think Gruden will have the talent he needs in the sense that he won't be asked to go through the growing pains -- he'll be expected to win with the personnel he has and can lure in, just like he did with Tampa Bay.
John Fox: Even though I poke fun at him for his sideline mannerisms at times, I have always been a John Fox fan. I have always felt that his initial success was built off of taking a team without a Pro Bowl quarterback, without receivers beyond Steve Smith, and without an intimidating defense and being able to turn them around instantly. The Panthers were 1-15 the year before Fox was hired. In Fox's second season, the Panthers made the Super Bowl. Two years after that, they almost went back to the Super Bowl. In 2008, the Panthers secured a first-round bye. With the exception of this past season in which nobody could have won with the lack of talent Fox had, the Panthers were always in contention.
Marty Mornhinweg: It might not be tough to draw Fox to Cleveland, but he's a defensive-minded coach. Holmgren might be looking for someone who is offensive-minded, which is what Gruden is. The issue with Gruden would be,
a. Does he want to coach this year?
b. Would he be willing to work under Mike Holmgren in a sense?
If not, the rumors seem to be strongly pointing toward Mornhinweg. He was the head coach who was a disaster with the Detroit Lions from 2001-2002, when he was 5-27. He also was the only coach to defer in overtime that we know of. The Lions never got the ball in that game, and Detroit lost.
It's tough to evaluate Mornhinweg. He had a terrible tenure in Detroit, but no one has been able to win with that franchise, and Matt Millen was making a lot of poor personnel decisions. Mornhinweg has been given credit for helping Michael Vick's comeback, but I still feel there have been many times where I hate Philadelphia's pass-run distribution. I feel they have a tough time finding a balance offensively and rely too much on the big play if things aren't going their way.
He wouldn't be the offensive coordinator if he came here though: he'd be the head coach. If it didn't work at all once, I just don't see how taking a chance on him is the right move following Eric Mangini.
Perry Fewell: You hate to label someone as purely a "Rooney Rule candidate," but the fact is that Cleveland must interview a minority head coach. Fewell helped guide the defense this past season back to what it once was, but that can also be attributed to the fact that some of their star players were healthy again. Fewell has several seasons of experience as a defensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills under his belt too.
As of this post, the only person that seems to have an interview lined up is Fewell -- Gruden, Fox, and Mornhinweg are just rumored candidates. If the Browns take several weeks to make a decision though and the Eagles are still in the postseason, it might be a sign that he is their guy.
Other coaches who might be on the Browns radar at the NFL level are Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals) and Jeff Fisher (Tennessee Titans). Lewis might be out in Cincinnati, but I still have a hard time believing the Titans will get rid of Fisher.
With whatever head coaching change is made, I hope Cleveland is able to get an offensive coordinator who has had playcalling duties before. It was a disaster seeing Brian Daboll work things out on the fly, and I'd rather not see the Browns have to deal with that again.