-New England Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, the front-runner for the Browns' general manager post - and possibly the entire football side of the organization - has been in talks with Browns owner Randy Lerner through Wednesday. The OBR has been told in the last half-hour that the Browns and Pioli are "past the preliminary stages" of talks.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, however, the Browns and Pioli have not reached an agreement on a deal which would make Pioli the head of the football operations.
Pioli is believed to want the Browns job ahead of any other, but has not been quick to jump on any offers league-wide in the past - and the same could be in the offing as of this writing. League sources tell theOBR that Pioli has been meeting with Lerner and that team president Mike Keenan has been at Lerner's disposal in the event the men close in on an agreement.
The Kansas City Chiefs have requested and received permission to interview Pioli for their vacant general manager post. This interest on the part of the Chiefs could expedite the process of the Browns, as Lerner is believed to have Pioli as his top candidate, since former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher rebuffed Lerner's efforts last Saturday in New York.
Numbers have been talked about in the deal for Pioli. The latest we at theOBR have heard is a five year deal for between 20-25 million dollars - as a base, then numerous escalating figures based on team progress - though we are uncertain as to which party involved has levied this compensation figure.
Despite the Browns' progress with Pioli, all indications are that the interview with Falcons executive Rich McKay is still scheduled to go forward.
- A couple of weeks ago, OBR subscribers were privy to information this column received regarding the Browns' interest in Pioli and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
As we noted then, McDaniels is regarded as a bright and enthusiastic individual with a keen insight to the game and in handling personnel - two qualities that Browns team owner Randy Lerner highly regards.
With the 'official' word today, broken by theOBR's own John Taylor, that the Browns have asked and received permission to interview the Ohio native, the groundwork is being methodically laid for a quick and decisive change with the Cleveland organization.
McDaniels has impressed many throughout the league since taking on the responsibility as offensive coordinator of the New England offense in 2006. Prior to the added responsibility, McDaniels was the QB's coach - a position he still holds as a member of the New England coaching staff.
During this past off-season, McDaniels, like Pioli, refused interview requests. At the time, McDaniels simply felt he was not 100% ready to become a head coach, while Pioli was waiting on the right opportunity to present itself.
If the Browns and Pioli come to an agreement for the Patriots front office executive to come on board, Josh McDaniels becomes a much more viable option for the Browns as head coach. He and Pioli have a strong bond.
- Don't think for a second that it is a coincidence that the Browns head coaching job interview process has taken the club to meeting two acquaintances of Pioli - Eric Mangini and McDaniels. Many in the league believe Mangini did a solid job as head coach of the New York Jets and that his firing was not completely related to the won-loss record accumulated in New York.
Mangini was a member of then-head coach Bill Belichick's staff in Cleveland in the early to mid-nineties, before being an assistant and defensive coordinator for Belichick's Patriots, and then the Jets job three seasons ago.
A hard, tireless worker, Mangini has been compared to Belichick in many aspects of his handling of players and media alike. Under a Mangini-coached team, discipline is a requirement and things are played very close to the vest in most instances.
According to a New England team source, Pioli maintains no animosity toward Mangini, who was accused of informing the NFL league office of the Patriots' taping habits. This proved illegal by league standards and cost the Patriots the loss of a draft selection and Belichick a significant fine.
Mangini is a serious candidate. Upon hearing of his termination while conducting a media conference in Cleveland, Lerner was visibly pleased to hear that Mangini was available. While some in the league fault Mangini for the taping issue, Lerner was one of the league members that did not have an issue with Mangini and what he supposedly did in turning in the Patriots.
The Cleveland interest in Mangini is genuine - with or without Scott Pioli.
- While Josh McDaniels is going to receive consideration for the Browns head coach position, the team is far from settled on the successor to Romeo Crennel. McDaniels and Pioli have been named, as well as defensive coordinators Steve Spagnuolo (Giants) and Jim Schwartz (Titans). The University of Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is expected to receive a call from the Browns following the Hawkeyes bowl game, and potentially former Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan as well. In the case of Shanahan, the Browns may be in the position to tread slowly toward the veteran head coach and player personnel exec. until discussions with Pioli climax.
- Speaking of Shanahan, the owner of the Browns has been complimentary of him and could be yet another interesting and proven winning quality coach available to a team in dire need of direction and identity.
- Former Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer - known as a builder of respectable NFL teams - has not received a call from the Browns and does not anticipate hearing from Cleveland. According to sources close to Schottenheimer, he feels the Browns are headed in another direction and would be extremely surprised if Pioli or Rich McKay of the Atlanta Falcons were not named as the new general manager of the Browns in the next few days.
- While the Browns have shown no interest in Schottenheimer at this time, the Kansas City have talked to the veteran coach regarding a front office role - while the New York Jets and possibly Detroit Lions look toward Schottenheimer as a stabilizing force within the core structure of a roster and coaching staff.