BEREA— The Browns spent almost three weeks in the winter of 2014 searching for a head coach, as not many candidates were interested in the opportunity.
After firing then coach Rob Chudzinski on December 29 when the team returned from a loss in Pittsburgh, Cleveland hired Mike Pettine on January 23, after interviewing and showing interest in a laundry list of coaches for nearly three weeks.
Though they’re content with their current head coach, the Browns could’ve saved themselves a world of trouble if they had hired the guy who so badly wanted to return to Berea when the head coaching position opened in 2009.
“I really loved my time there,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said. “I wish I would have had an opportunity.”
Arians, who spent two seasons as the Browns defensive coordinator from 2001 to 2003 before holding the same position with the Steelers from 2007 to 2011, was all set to meet with the Browns regarding their head coaching vacancy in 2009, until everything fell apart.
“I was notified that I was going to be contacted,” Arians said, when asked about his desire to coach the Browns. “Then somebody else was hired that same day.”
That somebody was Eric Mangini, who was very much sought after by then Browns owner Al Lerner and fired just two years later.
During that time, Arians maintained his job as offensive coordinator for the Steelers before taking the same position with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.
While in Indianapolis, he became the interim coach of the Colts when Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, and amassed a 9-3 record before taking the full-time head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals.
Arians admitted he was frustrated that he wasn’t interviewed by the Browns in 2009 and said too that he was surprised when he was fired by the organization in 2003.
While he had little explanation for the second occurrence, he had an idea why he was let go the first time around.
“There was a feeling that we were asking our quarterback to do too much,” Arians said. “All of a sudden there was a controversy, probably because I was a Tim Couch supporter.”
Arians, to this day, continues his support of Couch, who remains the only Browns quarterback since 1999 to start in all 16 of the team’s regular season games and the only quarterback to lead Cleveland to a playoff berth.
“I felt very, very confident in (former Browns QB) Tim Couch,” Arians said. “I think Tim Couch is still one of the most underrated players because Timmy took us to the playoffs and then broke his leg.”
Though he currently occupies the role that Arians desired for so long, Mike Pettine has maintained a great relationship with the Arizona coach and was nothing but effusive in his praise.
“I’ve kind of known Bruce through coaching circles. I’ve always had a great deal of respect,” Pettine said. “His teams are well-coached, they’re ready to play and they do a lot of things to stress you from a schematic standpoint.”
What may be more impressive to Pettine than Arians’ football knowledge, is his ability to maintain his quirky personality amidst all of the stresses that come with the position.
“I think when coaches get in trouble it’s when they step out of their personality and say, ‘How would a coach act in this situation?’ You have to be yourself. That’s the way he is and he’s never shied away from it.”
Arians and his interesting personality will come with the Cardinals to First Energy Stadium on Sunday, giving the head coach the opportunity to head to one of his favorite NFL places.
“The fans and the people in the city are just fabulous,” Arians said. “They have an unbelievable fan base, they travel so well but they’re so used to winning. I always felt like if you could deliver a winner to Cleveland how special that would be.”
Arians may still have a deep passion for the city of Cleveland and a desire to coach the Browns, but he has to put his feelings aside, if only for a day.
“I root for them every week,” Arians said. “Except this week.”
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.