After the Cleveland Browns fired head coach Rob Chudzinski, CEO Joe Banner told the media that he did not think they would be interviewing any candidates who were part of the head coaching search in 2013, after the firing of Pat Shurmur.
After reports that things did not go so well in their interview with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, it appears as though Banner and company are making an exception to their 2014 interview process with former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Browns are set to interview Whisenhunt this Saturday:
Cleveland had said it would not reheat its HC candidates from last year but it is making exception for in-demand Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2014
After the Browns lost out on Chip Kelly and Doug Marrone in 2013, Whisenhunt seemed like a possible favorite to be the team's next head coach. Based on how things have gone in 2014, it wouldn't surprise me if he's the favorite this year now, and here are a couple of reasons why:
Latest on the Browns' Head Coaching Search
•Dawgs By NatureAfter the Cleveland Browns fired first-year head coach Rob Chudzinski, take a look at all of the people they have been trying to interview in their search for a new head coach.
- Peter King of Sports Illustrated tweeted that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is "very involved. I mean, very involved" with the team's head coaching search. Last year, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that Haslam really liked Whisenhunt and the fact that he's been to a Super Bowl.
- Last year, Whisenhunt interviewed twice for the team's head coaching vacancy. After the second interview, they ultimately decided to hire Rob Chudzinski. While Chudzinski's team collapsed the second half of this season, the Chargers (which Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator of) saw a surge.
- The Chargers were 5-7 at one point. They won their final four games of the regular season, and upset the Bengals in the first round of the playoffs last week. When Chudzinski was fired, one of the primary reasons Haslam cited was the fact that he had wanted the team to improve significantly from the first three games of the season compared to the last three games of the season. Even though Chargers head coach Mike McCoy deserves credit, I'm sure this is a point that Whisenhunt will try to sell Haslam on hard.
- Peter King also said that Haslam is "looking hard at guys who can coach the quarterback." Whisenhunt had a couple of down years in Arizona after Kurt Warner retired, but he can preach three names to the front office that he's worked with: Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, and now Philip Rivers. This past season, Rivers had a career year -- a "comeback player of the year" type of season -- under Whisenhunt's offense.
- Even though the Browns may be disappointed with how Ray Horton's defense collapsed at the end of the year, Horton worked as Whisenhunt's defensive coordinator for two years in Arizona (2011-2012). There's no reason to think why Whisenhunt wouldn't keep Horton and most of his defensive staff in tact, allowing for some continuity to remain on this team in 2014.
The Lions and Titans will interview Whisenhunt first on Thursday and Friday, respectively, but nobody can make him an offer until the Chargers are eliminated from the playoffs. That could happen on Sunday, when the Chargers face an uphill battle against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The other candidates are as follows, as compiled by DBN's Jon Stinchcomb:
- Ken Whisenhunt - Chargers OC - interview scheduled for Saturday (1/11)
- Ben McAdoo - Packers QB coach - interviewed
- Dan Quinn - Seahawks DC - interviewed
- Todd Bowles - Cardinals DC - interviewed
- Adam Gase - Broncos OC - opting not to interview until after team's postseason
- James Franklin - Vanderbilt head coach - reported that he was offered job by Penn State
- Gus Malzahn - Auburn head coach - reported he "spurred" extension with Auburn
Josh McDaniels- Patriots OC - interviewed, opting to stay with Patriots
UPDATE (8:47 AM): For what it's worth, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland has some news on why Whisenhunt wasn't around last year, and who he might want as an offensive coordinator in 2014:
Miller was the Cardinals' offensive coordinator from 2011-2012, but had been part of the organization since 2007. If the duo get brought over and Horton stays, we'd officially have a re-united Cardinals staff in Cleveland (and maybe we can pry Kurt Warner out of retirement for a year, eh?).