When Browns owner Randy Lerner sat down with Scott Pioli, the Vice President of Player Personnel for the New England Patriots, many within league circles believed the face-to-face meeting was only a formality.
Pioli was expected to be the front-runner for the Cleveland job, and running football operations for the Browns was the job Pioli most wanted, according to most accounts.
The two sat down to discuss the job, and there will be further discussions regarding the vacant general manager position of the Cleveland Browns. Lerner and Pioli reportedly discussed various facets of building, maintaining and elevating a Cleveland Browns team in flux.
Philosophy was a lengthy discussion, we are told, as was Lerner and Pioli talking on a personal level.
Reports of Pioli not feeling comfortable with Lerner and the Browns, as well as Lerner dropping the ball and not casting the Browns and the open position in a positive light are greatly exaggerated.
Prior to the Pioli interview, Lerner had an interview scheduled with former Tampa Bay and Atlanta executive Rich McKay, that Lerner intended on keeping - if only to conduct due diligence in Lerner's search for the best man to to right the Cleveland Browns' sinking ship.
The process Lerner is undertaking is believed to be expedited, yet methodical. After meeting with McKay on Thursday, the ante will then be raised. At that time, Lerner is expected to negotiate with one of the two named candidates - unless the unforeseen arises - which is something Lerner told Pioli going into the interview process.
While the talks went past the preliminary stages, no contract specifics were discussed, according to our sources. The length of turning around a program in the state of the Browns was discussed, which would lead to a logical time frame for a contract. Sources have indicated to the Orange and Brown Report that the general manager position was not offered, nor were definite salary terms.
Pioli himself is believed to be open and willing to further discuss the vacant Browns position, as well as meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs - another team which has expressed an interest in talking with Pioli.
So, if you're on a ledge contemplating jumping over the fact that Pioli hasn't signed a deal with the Browns, feel free to step back and watch as the process plays out.
Selecting and hiring a general manager to undertake the task of re-tooling the organization needs to be thorough and correct.
Lerner is torn on providing a sole individual absolute power within the organization. As Lerner looks to form a structure of responsibility within the organization, discussing the decision-making process and expectations of Pioli was critical to Lerner. There are some subtle notes making their way to theOBR that Pioli may have exceeded expectations with a more aggressive, power-oriented position he envisioned for himself in the Browns front office.
If Pioli is Lerner's man to lead the Cleveland Browns, he will be boarding that private jet of Lerner's to Cleveland in the next couple days.
Until then, the process continues. As one member of the Browns organization noted to theOBR as the final moments of 2008 ticked down, and the ball prepared to drop: "we'll see a new leader coming to Cleveland within the next 24-to-48 hours, unless something really goes wrong".