As the names of coaching candidates slowly make their way to theOBR, we have been able to learn some of the rationale behind interviewing some of these particular coaches.
The first candidate, identified by the OBR and ESPN's Adam Schefter yesterday, Perry Fewell, is currently the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. Fewell, a minority, would fulfill the Rooney Rule obligation that each NFL team with a vacant head coaching position is required to interview a minority candidate.
Despite dismissive statements all over the local media, Fewell's skin color and heritage aren't the driving force behind the Browns' interest.
Fewell is known as a very structured coach, and sas being a communicator and solid teacher. Fewell is highly respected and the Browns, as team president Mike Holmgren noted in his press conference on Monday, have a list of coaches that interest them. Fewell is one of them.
Marty Mornhinweg, the offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles is a serious candidate, which was anticipated by most as soon as the position came available. Despite failing in his first attempt as a head coach in Detroit, Mornhinweg has rebuilt his reputation as the play-caller in Philadelphia and has been credited often by Eagles QB Michael Vick for helping him resurrect his career.
Holmgren has a lengthy history with Mornhinweg both in the professional ranks where Mornhinweg coached under Holmgren, and dating even further back, when Holmgren was Mornhinweg's high school coach.
In Mornhinweg, Holmgren would have a candidate familiar and successful with the West Coast Offense. The personal relationship would be make it a simple matter for Holmgren to conclude that he could continue to act as a mentor, rather than working with a new coach who is an unknown entity.
Despite his initial failures as a head coach, Mornhinweg is a legitimate candidate for the Browns head coaching position.
We also learned yesterday that Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell were being included in the interview process. The first of these was very logical, but the latter was somewhat confusing.
Mularkey is a no-nonsense type of coach that has succeeded at the professional level. As the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mularkey led a strong Pittsburgh offense that rated near the top of the league, while having the likes of Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox under center.
His no-nonsense approach did not adapt well to Buffalo, where Mularkey went 14-18 in two seasons as head coach of the Bills prior. Mularkey wound up resigning from the Bills due to his disagreement with the direction of the organization - a decision which many thought would hamper his professional career.
After leaving Buffalo, Mularkey had a successful stint in Miami as the offensive coordinator and moved on to Atlanta, where Mularkey is credited with the rapid development of QB Matt Ryan and a powerful Falcons offense. Mularkey will be a candidate garnering plenty of interest around the league as more head coaching positions are vacated. The Cleveland Browns are decidedly on that list.
Whereas Fewell, Mornhinweg and Mularkey are clearly viable candidates, Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell could be the mystery candidate in this search process.
As an assistant in Green Bay, Bevell learned the intricacies of the WCO, first as an assistant and subsequently as the quarterback coach. Bevell's success with the Packers landed him in Minnesota as the offensive coordinator of the Vikings under Brad Childress.
While former Eagles offensive coordinator Childress was hands-on with his play-calling duties, Bevell gained recognition as being a bright mind only needing the opportunity to take the reigns.
Childress' termination in late November opened the door for Bevell. Despite the shattered state of the Vikings offense and quarterback position, Bevell's leadership was noted during the Vikings late-season turmoil.
While not considered a front runner for a head coaching position, Bevell's background and success has numerous teams executives looking at him as an option.
A couple of names that Holmgren knows well are John Fox and Jon Gruden. Both are capable, and both will talk with the Browns president at some point in the near future, whether as an official candidate or as recipient of a friendly call gauging interest.
While the names of other candidates will continue to emerge, Fox and Gruden could ultimately be the major players in the Browns head coaching derby.
Fox is respected and proven. A defensive coach, Fox would provide a stabilizing force on the Browns sidelines, but his up and down records in Carolina should be worthy of a concerning look.
Not many coaches who take their team to the Super Bowl will be overlooked and, with Fox, an up and coming offensive coordinator such as the Denver Broncos Mike McCoy could be in the mix. McCoy is knowledgeable in the WCO, and is known as a bright and daring coordinator could factor into the equation to offset the Fox's well-known conservativeness.
What may prove to be the true wild-card in the Browns head coach search will likely be Ohio native Jon Gruden.
Gruden coached under Holmgren, remains close to the team president and has noted in the past the Browns job is one of those "special opportunities". The Sandusky, Ohio native truly enjoys his latest success in the broadcast booth for ESPN, but the Browns opportunity is one that Gruden may find difficult not to explore.
Gruden has had his share of success and failure at the professional level. From his time in Green Bay under Holmgren, to successful stints in Oakland and Tampa Bay, where he won a Super Bowl, Gruden remains a quality candidate.
While his ultimate success on the field cannot be questioned, his handling of players - and notably young QB's - has come under criticism. Gruden is a hard coach to please and his level of patience can be deemed 'minimal'.
Regardless, there is a true bond between Holmgren and his former pupil.