Over the past couple weeks there have been numerous names thrown out as potential candidates to replace Rob Chudzinski as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Some of them appear to be legitimate, while others just a flash in the pan.
Jon has done a good job of compiling a list of candidates, that we've linked a couple times. But, I'll take a little closer look at each, then you all can vote for who you think the Browns should hire.
Let's take a look at our candidates! (Spoiler Alert: there's a lot of them..)
Josh McDaniels - OC, New England Patriots
McDaniels was widely considered to be THE guy the front office wanted. However, that feeling wasn't reciprocated as he removed his name from the hat on Wednesday. Oops.
Status: Moving on...
Ken Whisenhunt - OC, San Diego Chargers
Whisenhunt has just recently re-emerged this week as a viable option for the Browns. Despite the fact that the front office said they would not interview any repeat candidates from last year's search, it appears that Whisenhunt will interview with the Browns Saturday.
Browns fans are very familiar with Whisenhunt from his time in Pittsburgh. He was the offensive coordinator for the Steelers when they won Super Bowl XL. He then went on to get his first head coaching position as the head man for the Arizona Cardinals. After leading the Cardinals to an 8-8 finish in his first season (5-11 the previous two years), Whisenhunt would make it to the Super Bowl in just his second year. Whisenhunt and the Cardinals would face his former employer, the Steelers. The Cardinals lost in what was one of the most exciting Super Bowls in recent memory, with the Santonio Holmes TD catch late to win it.
Whisenhunt got the Cardinals back in the playoffs the following year, but got blasted by the Saints in the second round. The next three seasons were disappointing for the Cardinals. He had a train wreck of a QB situation after Kurt Warner retired. In 2012 the Cardinals started 4-0, but lost 9 straight games which included a 58-0 beatemdown at the hands of the Seahawks. Ultimately Arizona fired him after the 2012 season.
Whisenhunt has re-emerged as a hot head coaching candidate however after the great 2013 season he has put together in San Diego as offensive coordinator. Phillip Rivers had a disastrous year in 2012 under then HC Norv Turner. Under Whisenhunt however, Rivers has revitalized his career, leading the Chargers to the 5th total offense in 2013. In 2012 the Chargers ranked 31st in total offense.
Whisenhunt is preparing to take on the Broncos in the divisional round Sunday, but has interviewed with Detroit Thursday, reportedly will meet with the Titans Friday, and the Browns Saturday. Will he last until the Browns interview? No one is for sure. It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out considering he seems to be the hottest commodity right now for the three teams.
UPDATE: Whisenhunt has accepted the Tennessee Titans offer to be their next head coach.
From @mortreport and me: Ken Whisenhunt has accepted an offer to become the next coach of Tennessee Titans.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 13, 2014
Now thought to be the lead candidate with McDaniels off the table. Tennessee Titants HC.
Ben McAdoo - QB Coach, Green Bay Packers
I've got to be honest here, going into another coaching search after just one year I expected to see some new names, but I didn't expect to see a QB coach with no coordinator experience on the list. Instead, here we are with Ben McAdoo who interviewed with the Browns on Wednesday.
McAdoo has been the QB coach in Green Bay for two seasons, and before that was the TE coach for 6 seasons. It was thought that he'd get a few looks at OC positions, specifically with the Dolphins under Joe Philbin, who he previously worked with in GB.
However, it appears at least the Browns are interested in speaking with him for the head coaching vacancy. McAdoo has also been tied to the open OC position with the Giants, so it'll be interesting to see if the Browns are just smoke, or if there's fire.
Aaron Rodgers had nothing but glowing remarks about his position coach when asked about him in a radio show interview earlier this week. Speaking on ESPN Wisconsin Rodgers had this to say about Ben McAdoo:
I sent Ben a text and said to make sure you use me as a reference. He's a guy I really trust. I've needed a guy who can get me prepared every week. He wants to learn and takes things to heart I say and the things he hears from Tom (Clements). He understands the scheme. He's a very prepared coach. I'm happy he's getting this opportunity.
If a team were to hire McAdoo as their head coach, he'd be taking an eerily similar career path as Andy Reid did. Reid was the TE coach and QB coach in Green Bay before he was hired as the HC for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999 without ever being a coordinator.
Status: Dark horse.
Dan Quinn - DC, Seahawks
Quinn is an intriguing coach as he is one of just two defensive coaches on the list. He's currently the DC for the Seahawks, and has their defense ranked 1st this year in total defense. Quinn has previously been a DL coach for a few NFL teams, as well as the DC for the University of Florida for 2 years before returning to Seattle.
Clearly Quinn can coach a defense, but some do question how his scheme would fit in Cleveland. It is worth pointing out in Seattle and at Florida, Quinn ran a multitude of fronts, so there's no reason to believe his scheme wouldn't be transferable to Cleveland's personnel.
When Quinn was brought in last year to Seattle, Aaron Sims of SB Nation's Seahawks' site, Field Gulls, had a nice write-up on Quinn's defense. If you're looking for more info on his work, it can all be found here.
The Browns interviewed Quinn on New Year's Day, and there hasn't been much to come up since. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, it appears that Quinn is the top candidate for the Titans HC position.
A name to keep an eye on, but I believe the next coach will be an offensive guy.
Status: Probably the top defensive guy, but I imagine the Browns go offensive.
Todd Bowles - DC, Arizona Cardinals
The Browns interviewed Todd Bowles on Friday of last week. Bowles is currently the DC for the Arizona Cardinals, a team that finished 6th in total defense in 2013. Bowles has been a secondary coach in the NFL for a long time, and served as the Browns secondary coach from 2001-2004. By interviewing Bowles, the Browns also satisfy the Rooney Rule of interviewing a minority candidate.
The Minnesota Vikings also have Bowles on their list of interviews. However, Cardinals GM Steve Keim said in a recent radio interview on Arizona Sports 620, he's "had numerous conversations with Todd and he's made it clear to me and to the organization that he's extremely happy here and would love to stay."
UPDATE: According to Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo, Todd Bowles has informed the Browns he is withdrawing from consideration:
Cardinals DC Todd Bowles has told the Browns to withdraw his name from their list of HC candidates, source tells @FOXSports1.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 14, 2014
Unlikely. Removed himself from consideration.
Adam Gase - OC, Denver Broncos
Gase is reportedly not interviewing for any vacancies until after the Bronco's playoff run. That puts him at a little bit low on the totem pole, considering the Broncos could have a deep run, and the Browns may already have front-runners in mind.
Gase is clearly an offensive guy, however it's sort of tough to gauge due to the fact that Peyton Manning is basically his own OC in Denver. One can imagine that the opportunity to coach Peyton Manning may be tough to pass up. So for now, it's tough to gauge how genuine his interest is, it may be another year or so before Gase makes the jump to a HC role.
Status: Will know more once the Broncos are eliminated, if we get that far.
Gus Malzahn - HC, Auburn University
This one is quite obvious why the Browns would be interested. Malzahn's career progression is stuff of legend. Arkansas HS coaching legend, offensive coordinator guru, National Championship with Cam Newton at the helm, gets HC job at Arkansas St., returns to take over Auburn team that goes 3-9 the year before, and he ends up in the National Championship in one season.
Quite the résumé. So there's no question that he's an offensive genius. Some people liken him to Chip Kelly from last year, but that's not entirely true. You can definitely see the similarities, so the reasoning for the Browns interest seems obvious.
The question is whether or not he'd leave Auburn for the NFL. What's more, is the question as to what the NFL would offer him? He has zero NFL experience as an assistant, coordinator, etc. Nothing. Chip Kelly was the same way, but Malzahn is a few years removed from coaching high school teams in Arkansas. Granted he has an incredible record to boot, but it would be understandable to see some NFL teams give pause to that.
There's reports that the Browns have ‘legitimate' interest, then there's also reports that Malzahn will stay at Auburn. Malzahn himself denied interest in the Browns job a week ago. Hard to read on this one, but I imagine Auburn throws a big extension at him and he ultimately stays.
Status: Most likely college coach, but it'll be tough to get him out of Auburn.
James Franklin - HC, Vanderbilt University
Everyone knows Jimmy Haslam is a Tennessee guy. James Franklin (for now) is the head coach of Vanderbilt. And for those who aren't familiar, Vanderbilt is in Nashville, TN. The ties there make sense for Haslam and the FO to have interest.
Furthermore, it's not just Franklin's ties to the state of Tennessee that make him an interesting candidate. It's also the fact that he turned an almost laughing stock of a program into a respectful, competitive program in the SEC at Vandy. I say this as a UK fan, but we used to make fun of Vandy for being a joke in football, and that's saying something, but now we have no room for those jokes.
Cleveland doing their homework on Franklin seems relatively useless at this point, as it seems he is almost certain to take the Penn St. job. If he's not introduced as the next head coach at Penn St. in the next few days, he may be a name to keep an eye on. But for now, we'll put him on the way back burner.
UPDATE (9:00 AM): Penn St. has officially hired James Franklin as their next head coach. Per ESPN's Adamn Schefter:
Penn St. makes if official, announces it has hired James Franklin as its new head coach.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 11, 2014
Almost certainly Packing his bags for State College.
Bob Stoops - HC, Oklahoma University
Almost certainly was using the Browns job as leverage for a raise at Oklahoma. Went on the Dan Patrick Show and was asked about the Browns job and basically left the door open for the media to run wild with his response. Stoops is from Youngstown, OH, so the Ohio boy coming home narrative made sense. However, we were literally just down that road with Chud and I can't see the Browns seriously entertaining Stoops at this point.
To me, Stoops did the smart thing and took advantage of his Sugar Bowl win over Alabama and maximized his exposure to try and get a raise. Smart dude.
Status: PR driven, not a viable candidate.
Jim Tressel - Former Ohio State HC
The rumor that connects the Browns and Tressel appears to be just that, a rumor. There doesn't seem to be any concrete evidence that the Browns are remotely interested in the former Ohio State head coach.
Tressel still has the desire to get back into coaching, however, I do not believe it'll be with the Browns this go 'round.
Status: Slim to none, and slim just left town.
Ultimately this hire for the Browns will be judged by wins. Whether they hire Ken Whisenhunt, Guz Malzahn or bring Marty Schottenheimer back for one last rodeo, nothing will matter except wins.
When the Browns do finally pull the trigger and name a head coach, the media in Cleveland and out will be up in arms both good and bad. It's bound to happen. If they name Whisenhunt the next coach, some will point to the fact that he resurrected Philip Rivers career, while others will point to the disastrous QB situation in Arizona. Malzahn would be the same way; great college coach, but can he do it in the NFL? There's always questions with each and every candidate.
The thing to keep in mind is that no matter who the team hires to be the next head coach, they're inheriting a roster that is built for the long term, and is in a position to improve drastically this offseason. There may teams with some flashier names on their roster, but make no mistake about it, any time a coach basically gets to aid in the picking of a QB as well as having 10 draft picks at their disposal, that's an attractive job no matter who the candidate is.
McDaniels may have turned them down, and Malzahn maybe will do the same. Who knows, the Browns may strike out on Whisenhunt and be back to square one. But the coaching hire will not be graded next week, nor this summer, only when they play the games.
Ultimately I think that the Browns will go with Whisenhunt, if he's on board. If he has good interviews with the Lions and Titans, then we may be high and dry (again). If the Browns miss on Whisenhunt, it'll be a VERY interesting finish to this search.
If they strike out on Whiz, I'll be all aboard on the Ben McAdoo train, I guess.
The list seems to be ever growing, but for now this is where we stand. So what say you DBN faithful, who do YOU want as the next Browns head coach?