The signals fans are getting about the Browns intentions at the GM position seem a bit schizophrenic, at first glance.
On one hand, experienced names like well-regarded Eagles GM Tom Heckert are being tossed around. On the other, we're hearing a number of names of up-and-comers.
In addition to Heckert, the names we're hearing as being real GM candidates for the Browns are:
John Schneider, Green Bay Packers
Reggie McKenzie, Green Bay Packers
Will Lewis, Seattle Seahawks
Lake Dawson, Tennessee Titans
One name we're not hearing is Randy Mueller, the ex-Dolphins GM, who doesn't appear to be a serious candidate at this time, despite rampant rumors to the contrary.
Regarding the Browns' list, it seems like sort of a mismatch doesn't it? On one hand you have an individual who is an experienced GM with a successful, perennial playoff contender going up against much younger and inexperienced candidates for the same job. Hardly seems like a fair competition.
That is, if they're being considered for the same job. Which they aren't.
Sources close to the Cleveland Browns organization have told theOBR.com that Heckert, who flew into town last night ostensibly to interview for the GM position, is actually being considered at a position which would not necessarily be the traditional GM role, but could have a different title and greater responsibilities. Heckert's employment in the Browns organization does not preclude the hiring of McKenzie or others.
Bringing Heckert in with greater responsibilities and a different title makes sense on a number of different levels. First, it eases the transition from the Eagles and makes the move a promotion rather than a lateral move. Secondly, it relieves the Eagles of paying a high salary to someone who ultimately has to deal with Andy Reid as the ultimate decision-maker. Finally, it allows Heckert to further establish himself as his own man in Cleveland, and move out of the shadow of Reid in Philadelphia.
As we reported last weekend, the Eagles also can deal with Heckert leaving since they have a replacement, Howie Roseman, who is deemed capable of moving into the role.
Based on their improvement over the final weeks of the season, as well as his popularity among players, one might be tempted to think that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan would be a candidate to stay in Cleveland should Eric Mangini be relieved of duties.
That, however, is not what we're hearing at this point, as sources inside the Browns organization indicate that a clean sweep of the coaching staff may well be in the offing.
If Ryan leaves, one name to remember is that of ex-Bills head coach Dick Jauron. Jauron, who initially made his name as a defensive backs coach for Holmgren (as well as Forrest Gregg and Lindy Infante) in Green Bay before moving to the Jaguars and Lions as a defensive coordinator.
While Jauron's record as a head coach has been mostly lackluster, his track record as a defensive mind is sterling, and he looking for work after being relieved as Bills head coach earlier this season.
On the offensive side of the ball, coordinator Brian Daboll seems highly unlikely to remain, despite the increasing success of the team's offense (and running game in particular) over the last month of the season. Recently fired Redskins head coach Jim Zorn heads the list of potential offensive coordinators, followed by Gil Haskell and Pat Shurmur.
Despite the speculation and anticipation surrounding the Browns' coaching staff, those under contract have not been informed of any decisions made. The timing of such potential moves could quickly come to a head once team president Mike Holmgren meets with Mangini Wednesday.
As we have been reporting and providing updates news and notes through our Insider's Blog, Ask The Insiders and Rumor features, the candidates for a potential head-coaching position opening have come to light. Throughout Holmgren's long and successful career, the man has coached or been associated with many of the games brightest coaches and head coach prospects.
Sifting through the speculation and determining the true candidates leads us to two legitimate candidates identified, a couple potential candidates dependent on circumstance and one dropping from the radar screen. There is a growing sentiment in league circles that Holmgren will seek a strong defensive-minded presence to coach the team, while relying on his and his offensive prowess on the offensive side of the ball. This isn't to say Holmgren intends on being involved in the daily operation structure of the offense, but those hired to oversee the offense are expected to come from a variation of the Holmgren offensive tree.
Philadelphia Eagles assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier are strong candidates to become the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns, if the services of Mangini are not retained.
Mornhinweg coached under Holmgren in Green Bay, as well as serving as offensive coordinator for former Holmgren assistants Steve Mariucci in San Francisco and Andy Reid in Philadelphia. In addition to these stints, Mornhinweg was the Detroit Lions head coach in the 2001 and 2002 seasons. At each stop, the Mornhinweg's offensive units have been exceptional and nearly as productive as any offense in the game.
Frazier is highly respected, known to be an excellent communicator and judge of character and talent. Working as a defensive assistant under the likes of Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, Reid in Philadelphia, Tony Dungy in Indianapolis and another Green Bay assistant under Holmgren, Brad Childress in Minnesota, Frazier's defensive units at each stop have shown to improve in comparison to those units prior to his arrival.
Just as Mornhinweg and Frazier legitimate candidates, former Oakland and Tampa Bay head coach, as well as former offensive assistant under Holmgren in Green Bay, Jon Gruden should not be discounted. Gruden, while expected to sit-out the 2010 season is being described as intrigued with the Holmgren hire in Cleveland and the fires burning within the Ohio native may be enough to jump into the head coaching fray.
While one former assistant to Holmgren may feel the itch, another appears to have lost the coaching bug and is expected to remain on the sideline. Former San Francisco and Detroit head coach Steve Mariucci is expected to remain an analyst for the NFL Network and bypass an opportunity to gauge interest in the potential opening in Cleveland.