Based on numerous conversations with sources throughout both the league and the Browns organization.
--As is customary this late in an NFL season, there is a lot of backchannel "stuff" going on all around the league. Marty Schottenheimer has been around the league as a player, assistant coach and head coach for many a decade. He knows that how the game is played publicly has almost nothing to do with how it's being played behind closed doors. Thus, it's not a surprise – even given Schottenheimer's interviews of late – there are rumblings from multiple league sources regarding the former Browns coach being a fallback option should the Bill Cowher pursuit fail. And, according to two sources, he would be THE fallback option when Romeo Crennel is fired at season's end.
--And for those who are curious, no, there has been no contact between the Browns and Schottenheimer or his people as of late last week. Also, and unlike the Cowher pursuit, there has been no third-party contact from persons who have no official or unofficial ties to the organization.
--Would you like another rumor involving Schottenheimer, one that's been gaining some serious traction and steam lately? There is one job and one job only he'd consider should he decide to reverse his forced retirement. I think you can guess the name on that door.
--Much like with Cowher, however, there's no certainty as to whether or not Schottenheimer even wants to come back to an NFL sideline, whether that be in Cleveland or elsewhere. Publicly, he has downplayed the possibility on several occasions the last couple of weeks, although privately there are mixed signals being sent and received as far as a potential return is concerned.
--There continues to be a tremendous amount of conflicting chatter out there about whether or not Cowher actually wants to make a return in '09, '10 or ever, and it gets more difficult to decipher with each passing day. Some think this uncertainty is just a tool to drive up his already high price tag. Others think it's very real and that he's truly undecided.
--Either way, the Browns "are tying their own hands behind their own back by keeping somebody who is going to find his head on the chopping block" at the end season, a league source said. "They could be talking openly about their head-coaching position with guys who, right now, aren't under contract to any NFL team and have no desire to step on the toes of a coaching brother already in place," one league source opined. The premise, of course, is that the Browns would be able to get a better feel for what both Cowher and Schottenheimer have going through their heads regarding a return with Crennel out of the way, then could move on to other options – when allowed by league rules – if the first two fell through.
--Now, as to the rumor that both Schottenheimer and Cowher – the latter as the head coach, the former as the team president – coming to Cleveland as a package deal? Singularly, Schottenheimer has almost no desire to step into any type of front office role. However, according to a source with ties to both, that pairing with Cowher "would probably be a very intriguing proposition for (Schottenheimer), intriguing enough to probably be considered". That being said, The Orange & Brown Report has not heard anything that would even remotely suggest that this scenario has any real legs right now.