Exclusive: The Pioli Dance

News is breaking fast. Here's the very latest on Randy Lerner's talks with Scott Pioli, as well as exclusive notes on the Cleveland Browns and Bill Parcells, Josh McDaniels and Mike Holmgren. Grab a seven-day free trial of the OBR and see what you've been missing!

As Browns owner Randy Lerner and New Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli begin the interview process today with a face-to-face meeting, there are several morsels of information and rumor beginning to trickle out regarding the situation. Here are but a few of them, with a couple of non-Pioli tidbits thrown in for good measure:

--There are concerns on both sides as to a potential hook-up between Pioli and the Browns. On the part of the Browns and owner Randy Lerner, as noted yesterday, there is the concern of putting too much organizational power in the hands of one man again, and total control of football operations is believed to be necessary in order to pry Pioli from New England.

Lerner is believed to be methodically charting a course for the Browns, and has been thrust into the forefront with the quick dismissal of the head coach and general manager. In speaking with New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft as early as Sunday evening, Lerner relayed his interest in Pioli. Kraft is believed to have spoken highly of the management skills of his Vice President of Player Personnel.

On Pioli's part, he's very concerned about the influence of the "kitchen cabal" -- a handful of official and unofficial representatives who have the ear of the owner at any time -- that surrounds Lerner. It's also believed that the "kitchen cabal" was what Cowher was referring to in the rumor of organizational dysfunction mentioned in this space yesterday.

--Could the Browns and Pioli be discussing a role with the organization that would make Pioli the president of football operations or some similar title, and would then hire a general manager and head coach? According to one source, that's one of the things that has come up in the preliminary talks between the two sides, and might be something Pioli is looking for that would also be attractive to the owner.

Lerner has been openly discussing the structure of his football operations or lack of with his closest confidants in recent weeks. Pioli seeks the assurances from Lerner that he will be provided the unabated opportunity to operate the football operations without the nuisance of input from individuals other than the owner of the team.

--Let's put this rumor to rest right now: Pioli is not selling Josh McDaniels and himself as a package deal, a be-all, end-all necessity for gaining his employment. Yes, Pioli and the current Patriots offensive coordinator are very close. Yes, he would like to bring the Canton native along with him wherever he might land. No, it's not a deal breaker if McDaniels is not guaranteed the head-coaching position. Certainly McDaniels could follow Pioli wherever the executive ends up, but it's not the foregone conclusion it's been portrayed as being.

--Yes, the Chiefs are interested in Pioli. However, according to sources, Pioli is looking at the Kansas City opening as a fallback option only should things not work out in Cleveland.

--Lerner reached out to former Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren through an intermediary, and was assured that Holmgren is taking a one-year sabbatical. "There were no intensive talks, no in-depth conversations. Just a cursory wellness-check call, I guess you could call it," a Holmgren source said.

--Even if Bill Parcells gets an early release from his contract with the Miami Dolphins, "you can all but forget about him (coming to the Browns) in any role," a source who's known Parcells for over twenty years tells The OBR. "I just don't think it would be a good fit for him," the source said. He refused to elaborate any further on why the Browns would not be a good fit. The source also added that this could be a moot point anyhow as he would be very surprised if Parcells walked away from the Dolphins right now, even given the escape clause written into his contract. Of course, when it comes to Parcells, the biggest mistake you could make is attaching the word "never" to anything he may or may not do a day from now, let alone a month from now.

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