Browns: The Plot Thickens

John Taylor provides a brand new angle on the finished-but-not-finished Bill Cowher story, as well as some new buzz about Scott Pioli. Plus, head coaching candidates and the Browns begin the mating dance as tales of interest begin to bubble up...

--Said one NFL source with knowledge of the situation, "the job is (Scott) Pioli's if he wants it.  He's got a blank check in front of him."  Of course, they were referring to the vacant general manager position that opened when Phil Savage and owner Randy Lerner reached a "mutual" agreement to part ways over the weekend.  Once Bill Cowher rebuffed Lerner's overtures -- for now -- Pioli became the focus of the Browns' restructuring.  And the interest, multiple sources have confirmed, is mutual.
--However, and as is always the case this time of year, there is a dissenting opinion from a well-placed source as to whether or not Lerner is ready to throw his checkbook -- and the keys to the football kingdom -- over to one man yet again.  "What happened with Savage really gave Lerner pause," the source said.  "He got bit once by giving an inexperienced guy that much power, and he knows he needs to get this decision right."  It's a widely-held belief that Pioli will only leave New England for a position that gives him total and complete authority over the football side of the operations -- the very same powers that Savage wielded during his four years with the Browns and ultimately burned the owner. 
How the front office is structured, and how powers are delegated and stipulated in contracts, could go a long way in determining whether or not Pioli eventually lands in Cleveland.
--Sources close to Jim Schwartz tell The OBR that the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator has a more-than-mild interest in the Browns' vacant head-coaching position.  Schwartz has a history in Cleveland, and is being encouraged by those close to him to purse what one source said was "somewhat of a dream job for him."  Incidentally, Schwartz and Pioli have a history together as they were on Bill Belichick's staff in Cleveland in the early- to mid-90's.
At this point in time, there has been no indication from Browns sources that they will reciprocate the interest.
--One rumor making the rounds and gaining steam is that Bill Cowher turned down just the Cleveland Browns specifically, not returning to the sidelines in 2009 in general.  The talk is that Cowher is less-than-impressed with the direction of the franchise and how it's been constructed.  "The thought of returning to Cleveland was very appealing to him, but the more he thought about it over the last couple of weeks and the more he looked into (the situation in Cleveland), he just saw a lot of dysfunction all over the place." 
That being said, and the unconfirmed rumor above put to the side for a minute, the door on Cowher coming to Cleveland has not been slammed shut by either side.  Particularly on the part of Lerner. 
As one source with no connection to the Browns reminded me, "Butch Davis wasn't coming to Cleveland, either.  He turned down Carmen Policy more than once, told him emphatically that he had no interest in the NFL or the Browns.  A couple of weeks later, with the pot sweetened, Davis was back in the NFL.  You never say never when there is this much money's being thrown around."
--"Don't sleep on the (Marty) Schottenheimer angle."  That's what one source told The OBR earlier today, and was subsequently corroborated by an additional source.  Word is the former Browns head coach could -- and let's stress the word "could" for the moment -- be ready to jump back into the head-coaching fray.  While there is nothing officially or unofficially tying him to the open position in Cleveland -- yet -- there is increased chatter that he is ready, willing and able to resume his NFL career.  In the past two months, various sources have stated that there is one job Schottenheimer would be willing to return to -- the Cleveland job.

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