BEREA—Randy Lerner said that he met with Bill Cowher in New York on Saturday night in an informal setting and that Cowher made it very clear he was not interested in being a candidate for the Browns position.
"I took the opportunity to meet with him and he said he didn't anticipate coaching next year and not in include him in the candidate list," Lerner said. "We had a long conversation about him playing and coaching with the Browns.
"He's very focused on his kids and life in North Carolina," he said. "He isn't ready to leave his ‘civilian' existence."
Lerner was asked if he felt the door was closed on Cowher when he left the meeting.
"I mostly did," he said. "He wasn't coy. He spoke with clarity on his position. It wasn't a dance."
Lerner was asked if he hoped for a more formal meeting with Cowher.
"I suppose I would've," he said. "I would've liked to dig in deeper with him."
Lerner said the two never talked financial arrangements or organizational structure.
Lerner was also asked if he would push it with Cowher.
"I'd say, not really."
Lerner did acknowledge that Patriots' GM Scott Pioli is one of two NFL executives he's requested permission to speak with. Lerner declined the other by name.
"I've asked for permission with one or two non-coaching executives," Lerner said.
Lerner was asked if one of them was Pioli and he confirmed it, but declined beyond that.
"It would serve the Browns best not to disclose that information because it is a competitive situation."
Lerner did offer some insight on Pioli, who many feel is at the top of his list.
"He has a lot of qualities," he said. "He is very well trained. He has a very attractive football demeanor. It's the right time of life for him. He's a fundamentally a good guy."
Lerner said that he envisions a general manager and a head coach in separate entities, similar to the previous regime, but said there are exceptions such as a Cowher or other potential candidates. He also didn't rule out hiring a head coach without previous head coaching experience at the NFL level.
"It will depend on a couple of things," he said. "I don't know if previous NFL head coaching experience correlates. If we can attract an experienced executive, that could play into it. I don't want to be locked into a formula."
Lerner answered a wide variety of questions in the hour long session with the media. He was handed a note during the session and left the room once during the meeting.
Lerner said he felt pressure to make sure he gets the next hiring right.
"I feel a lot of pressure to get it right," he said. "I don't think harping on the amount of pressure will put me in the best state of mind.
"I realize the serious and sense of urgency," he said. "I have a very strong commitment to get it right."
Lerner says he wants to move quickly, but not be too hasty in his decision.
"We need to move as quickly as we can," he said. "It's an imperfect situation with two openings. We want to be sensitive, but also it makes you nervous about losing out."
Other names mentioned in the meeting about potential executives:
Bill Parcells: "I've been following that story and (long hesitation) it could be a possibility."
Would you talk with him? "Sure."
Mike Holmgren: "He's a very accomplished football person. Indirectly, he's said he wants to take a year off, but we will make further inquiries."
Charlie Casserly, Tom Donahue and Floyd Reese: "They're on the list, but we have to let the process play out."
Ozzie Newsome: "No."
Bernie Kosar: "I haven't discussed (a position) with him, but I will talk to him. I have had discussions with him but I don't have him listed as a GM candidate."
Marty Schottenheimer: "It's worth reaching out to Marty, but I don't know where that will fall."
Brian Billick: "I've not checked into that."
Eric Mangini: When informed that he was just fired by the Jets and asked if he would want to interview him:
"He was (fired)…I think I would."
Josh McDaniel: "He's on the list."