EXCLUSIVE: The Long, Dark Reboot

With Scott Pioli talking to Kansas City and Rich McKay seemingly uninterested, the situation darkens. John Taylor has some great scoop about the remaining issues with Pioli, why McKay might have been more intriguing than expected, and the availability of Mike Shanahan. Check. It. Out.

--What are the two biggest hurdles the Cleveland Browns and Scott Pioli must overcome in order to stop the flirting and consummate a marriage that both sides seemingly want?  One, Pioli's desire to hire longtime friend and current Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.  Owner Randy Lerner has "serious reservations" about handing over the sidelines to a college coach yet again. 
Two, having been burned by the Phil Savage experience and as we reported earlier this week, Lerner is very leery of handing over the keys to the entire organization to one man.  It's strongly believed Pioli will be seeking total and complete autonomy over football operations wherever he lands. 
Money is not and will not be an issue.  The above issues, however, are and will need settled before the discussions progress any further.  Still, most observers close to both sides of the equation would be a little more than mildly surprised if a middle ground cannot be reached at some point in the very near future.
--In the meantime, Pioli is meeting with Chiefs owner Clark Hunt today or tomorrow in the New England area.  Most around the league believe Pioli is using the Chiefs' interest as leverage to get exactly what he wants from the Browns, and that it'll be either Cleveland or back to New England for Pioli when the dust settles.
--One of the fallback options for the Browns should they not be able to land Pioli is reportedly Rich McKay.  Yes, while it's technically true the Browns could owe draft pick compensation to the Atlanta Falcons because McKay is currently under contract as the club's president, there are rumors making their way around the league that Falcons owner Arthur Blank would be willing to let the executive go without compensation.  One Cleveland media source noted to The OBR earlier this week that McKay wants more involvement in the football side of operations than he has in his current position, and that Blank may be amenable to allowing him to leave without compensation.

--If McKay is eventually hired by the Browns to fill their front office power vacuum, you are going to hear the name Raheem Morris in connection with the vacant head-coaching position.  A lot.  One Tampa Bay source says that the former Buccaneers exec has long been an admirer of the club's current defensive coordinator.  Morris has been rumored to be a hot head-coaching candidate this year, but, as of yet, no club has requested an interview.

(Editor's note: since the writing of this note, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports.com has reported that McKay is no longer an option for the Browns and the Broncos have requested an interview with Morris.)

--As The OBR's Lane Adkins has noted on several occasions recently, the current members of the Browns' front office fully expect to have a new boss in place no later than tomorrow evening.  Whether or not that actually happens is still up in the air, and is entirely dependant upon the McKay situation coupled with the ongoing discussions with Pioli.
--The Browns will meet with New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo today and Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz on Saturday.  Both of the interviews are expected to take place in New York.  The meeting with Spagnuolo was originally slated for Saturday, but was changed to today at the request of the coordinator, a Giants source said.  The source was not privy to why the interview was changed.
--Mike Shanahan and/or his "people" have received calls from at least three teams looking to sit down with the former Denver Broncos head coach, a source close to the coach said this afternoon.  All three calls took place today and, yes, one of those teams is none other than the Browns.  Shanahan has yet to decide whether or not he wants to return to the NFL -- although one source said his initial leaning is for an immediate return -- but will likely sit down with any and all teams expressing an interest.  It's not known what level of interest the Browns have in Shanahan, other than doing their due diligence in kicking the tires of a potential future Hall of Fame coach.
--Speaking of Shanahan, the knock on the head coach of late has been that he wasn't able to win a Super Bowl after John Elway retired in 1998.  Said one NFL source, "How many (Super Bowls) did (Chuck) Noll win without (Terry) Bradshaw?  It's a (very bad word) asinine observation." 
--If Shanahan does decide to sit out for a year, he would join Bill Cowher and Mike Holmgren as head-coaching candidates in 2010.  Now THAT is a free-agent coaching class.  "Looks like Lerner picked the wrong year to be in the market for a head coach," said an unnamed front office executive.
--Unlike the Jets, the Browns have yet to seek permission to interview Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, a Ravens source said.  Ryan is not available for an interview until either the Ravens' season is finished or, if Baltimore makes it to the Super Bowl, the week immediately after the conference championship games.

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