- While the media discusses the unsurprising news that Browns team owner Randy Lerner is meeting with the New England Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, fans should know that the two men have spoken by telephone prior to this scheduled meeting.
Pioli and Lerner have been given a 'thumbs-up' by Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots. Kraft and Lerner are close and any movement on one of Kraft's employees would have to come with the approval of Kraft, due to the personal relationship the two men share. Kraft does not want to see Pioli depart and could offer him some additional compensation to remain in New England, but at this time Pioli wishes to explore the options - with his first and preferred stop being in Cleveland.
- In league circles, the expectation is that Lerner will attempt to hire Pioli quickly - especially when they meet and Lerner digests the organizational expertise and vast array of roles that Pioli has filled during his tenure as a front office executive.
- For Pioli, gaining the authority to drive the structure and rebuilding of the football side of operations is critical. Without assurances that he will be the voice on all matters related to the team, players and personnel, Pioli will walk away from any offer Lerner will make. The question of authority and structure to build the team according to his vision is of the utmost importance to Pioli.
- Voices close to the Browns organization believe Pioli is the top-candidate on Lerner's wish-list - especially after he was rebuffed by Bill Cowher. Following the disastrous reign of Butch Davis and less-than-structured run of Phil Savage as the general manager, Lerner seeks an established front office type who commands respect and is a hands-on and on-site executive running the football operations.
- Another factor which has grabbed the immediate attention of Lerner is the manner which the Patriots under the direction of Bill Belichick and Pioli re-stock their roster of talent. There is a definite philosophy and direction within the New England structure - an identity of sorts which this Browns organization has failed to gain in nearly ten years. Belichick and Pioli find players to fit the system. They don't find talent and attempting to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. This is an extremely important facet of building a consistently competitive franchise that Lerner acknowledges and covets.
- While members of the Browns player personnel department have not been informed of any impending moves, some voices within the organization are of the belief Pioli could be hired within the next 48-hours. Rumors and speculation swirl within the organization that Lerner is looking to strike quickly - and have nearly a full staff in place under the new management in the coming weeks.
- In the event Lerner and Pioli do not reach an agreement, a name already gaining traction in the public eye is former Tampa Bay and Atlanta front office guru Rich McKay. McKay may also be a candidate to fill a upper-management position with the club, regardless of what transpires with the Pioli talks.
- A source close to Kirk Ferentz tells The OBR that the Iowa head coach has not been contacted by the Browns regarding their coaching vacancy, and would have no interest in the position even if he were afforded the opportunity. This denial through a source should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as having his name attached to an NFL opening would give other universities ammunition against him on the recruiting trail.
- The Browns have formally asked for and received permission to interview New York defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a Giants source has told The OBR. According to the source, the interview will "likely happen on Saturday." Thus far, Spagnuolo is the only NFL assistant coach the organization has sought official permission to speak to. That could change as early as today, however, as a formal request to interview Tennessee Titans DC Jim Schwartz could be in the offing before the end of the day.