Based on numerous conversations with sources throughout both the league and the Browns organization.
--The following comes from an NFL source with long-time ties to former Steelers head coach and current CBS studio analyst Bill Cowher: "This (Cowher-to-Cleveland rumor) has been out there for a month or more. Bill has a national pulpit each Sunday, and could address it and squash it very easily. That hasn't happened. Why do you think that is?"
--Of course, the above is patently unrealistic. One, as a member of the coaching fraternity, Cowher is not going to address a situation – one way or the other – where the head coach has yet to be officially fired; especially when a coach as respected around the league as Crennel is involved. And two, a public Cowher denial would do nothing to the rumors because…
--There seems to be a lot of consternation and handwringing over the future makeup of both the Browns' sidelines and the Berea inner sanctum. Based on numerous conversations over the last two weeks with sources outside, inside and around the organization, it's really a very simple proposition: if owner Randy Lerner has his way, Bill Cowher will become the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
--While Plan A for Lerner may indeed be that simple, getting Cowher to leave a cozy and cushy television gig will be anything but. League insiders are seemingly split right down the middle, with half seeing a Cowher return this season and half not seeing Cowher on an NFL sideline again until 2010 – if at all. "In no way, shape or form has he decided to come back, let alone where he would want to come back to," a source close to the former coach said.
--"(Cowher's) being coy and playing the game. There is no doubt in my mind that he wants to come back. Coaching's in his blood; broadcasting's not," an NFL source said. "Whether that's with Cleveland or not, I don't know. There are just too many signs to ignore and Cleveland's wise to pursue this."
--Cowher and his agent are very much aware of a potential interest on the part of the Cleveland Browns. The owner of the team has several close confidantes who have no ties – officially or unofficially – with the organization. It's believed by many around the league – and confirmed by at least two people who work in the office of Cowher's representation team – that those people have indeed made independent contact in order to gauge both Cowher's desire to return to the sidelines and his level of interest in the Browns job.
--There's also the notion of, even if Cowher did decide to return to coaching this year, whether or not he would he even consider Cleveland as his best and most viable option. There are some around the league who believe – given the Ford family's loyalty and willingness to stay in the background – that Detroit would be Cowher's best option. Of course, the very things that make the Lions attractive in the eyes of some insiders – the owner's loyalty and media wariness – could also very much describe Cleveland's ownership situation.
--"Detroit? A better situation than Cleveland?" one league source said. "I don't understand how a sane person comes to that conclusion. Look at the rosters and tell me Savage hasn't done a better than (former Lions president Matt) Millen over the last few years. Give me a break."
--To reiterate something I stated in ATI a couple of weeks ago, there has been no monetary offer or deal presented to Cowher or anyone associated with him. It goes without saying, though, the Browns have an idea what financial street they would have to drive on in order to obtain his services.
--And, before anyone asks, no, I have yet to hear anything which even remotely intimates Cowher would want to get back into the NFL game as a Bill Parcells-type front office king.
--Along those same lines, there has been nothing come across my desk that lends any credence to the Urban Meyer-to-Cleveland rumors either. Supposedly, the Florida head coach may have an itch to give the NFL a try, especially if his Gators can secure their second national championship in three years. Meyer has shown in his collegiate coaching career that he's not averse to moving on to bigger challenges and better opportunities, and there's no doubt helping turn around the Browns' (mis)fortunes would be the biggest challenge of his professional life.
--Should the pursuit of Cowher fall through or fail for whatever reason, you'll be hearing the name Steve Spagnuolo a lot. Rumor has it that some in the Browns hierarchy are "very intrigued" by the Giants defensive coordinator. The Browns are not alone; Spagnuolo will likely have his pick of jobs whenever the Giants' season ends.
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