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New England Patriots VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli interviewed with the Cleveland Browns this week for their open GM job. Sources close to Browns owner Randy Lerner have indicated that Pioli is at the top of Cleveland's wish list, but if a deal cannot be reached with Pioli soon, then they would move on to interview other candidates.
Patriots Insider first learned that Pioli would interview for the Cleveland Job just prior to the end of the Browns season finale. Indications that then GM Phil Savage would not be retained culminated with Savage's departure prior to the loss to the Steelers. After the game, more news leaked out that Romeo Crennel would be dismissed. It was a house cleaning the Browns desperately needed to make if they were to attract the type of talent necessary to turn the franchise around.
Reports from TheOBR (The Browns site on Scout), indicated that the Cleveland brass could interview Scott Pioli as soon as the beginning of the week. Once the Patriots were eliminated from postseason contention, it was merely a formality for Cleveland to request permission to speak with Pioli, which led to meeting between the two sides Tuesday and Wednesday.
During Monday's meeting with the press, Lerner also learned that the New York Jets fired head coach Eric Mangini. The Browns owner admitted that he was interested in speaking with the former Browns and Patriots assistant, and would make a move to meet with him about the opportunity in Cleveland.
What is known is that Mangini met with the Browns already, Pioli was still meeting with the Browns Wednesday and Atlanta Falcons exec Rich McKay was scheduled to meet with the Browns on Thursday. What isn't known is why the Browns are interviewing head coaching candidates before they hire a GM.
Obviously Cleveland is in a hurry to get a deal done. But interviewing head coaching candidates without a GM in place is only going to complicate negotiations between the Browns and the execs they want to hire. Unless the Browns have discovered a more efficient method to shortening the search for a new head coach, hiring the new GM is usually the first step in the process. Certainly Pioli wants control over deciding which coach will fit in his plans, so interviewing them without him on board seems shortsighted at best and downright dysfunctional at the worst.
According to Adam Schefter of the NFL Network and a report in the Boston Herald, the coach Pioli's most interested in hiring would be Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. The OBR also reported that Ferentz is a head-coaching candidate despite Ferentz's denial that he's interested in the position.
Known for his desire for privacy in New England, Pioli rarely shares information with the media about the status of player signings, contract negotiations or other similar situations. Confidentiality of negations between players, their agents and the team is a high priority, one that Pioli and the Patriots insist upon. To have updates on his situation or that of any new coaching interests made public would not be by Pioli's choice.
Cleveland obviously wants Pioli as their man. According to what we're told, Pioli's demands are beyond the norm. Warpaint Illustrated (the chiefs site on Scout) reported earlier this week that Pioli's asking price may be more than any team would agree to. If that's the case, then the Browns financial package - as lucrative as it's believed to be - wouldn't be the stumbling block to derail negations. It would be about control.
The Browns are threatening to move on without Pioli. According to one report, they want an answer today. If Pioli really wants the job, then he's going to have to decide how many concessions he really needs to get the job done. If he can't come to terms with Cleveland, his other options will be limited. One is a GM only role in Kansas City, while another is the option to return to New England and wait for someone willing to hand him the keys.
Some of the many updates are being reported in the mainstream media are linked via the Patriots Insider Newswire
For more specific updates, including contract offers, demands being discussed, and reports from insiders close to the situation can be found in the Insider's Lounge:
Insider's Lounge: Pioli Tracker (members link)
If you'd like to discuss the Pioli situation with other fans who may not be members, feel free to use the thread on the main forums:
Scott Pioli Thread