It came out this morning that the Browns’ brass interviewed former Arizona Cardinals coach (and former Pittsburgh coordinator) Ken Whisenhunt. This, on the heels of their interview with Ray Horton and news of their forthcoming interview with Chip Kelly. Those are just the names of candidates that we know of since Joe Banner and Jimmy Haslam stationed themselves in Arizona around the Fiesta Bowl where Kelly’s Oregon team is set to face Kansas State tonight. The Browns have been linked to other names as well. Obviously their first move to go to Arizona shows that their first priority is Chip Kelly. Whether or not you like or agree with that, compared to the last two coaching searches in Berea, this one definitely feels different. Different in a good way.
Randy Lerner hired Eric Mangini nine days after he was fired by the Jets. He did so only after failing to land Scott Pioli as his general manager. Lerner spoke to other candidates like Steve Spagnuolo, Josh McDaniels and outgoing Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker before hiring Mangini.
When Pat Shurmur was hired the Browns had promised a wide search for their next coach. It remains unclear if Mike Holmgren tested the waters on bigger candidates like Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher in an unofficial capacity, but again it seems the search was anything but wide. 1 The official record will show that Holmgren interviewed Mike Mularkey, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Shurmur. An article from the AP also points out that Marty Mornhinweg’s name was bandied about but a meeting never happened.
Of course if the Browns get into a meeting with Chip Kelly on Friday and consummate a deal to make him the next coach of the Cleveland Browns, the number of interviews for Banner and Haslam’s search won’t be all that different. In fact, Horton, Whisenhunt and then a hire of Chip Kelly would seem to be even fewer, but the ambition of going after a Chip Kelly is at least something. Again, whether you like Kelly as a candidate or not, the fact that there is competition for his services from the Bills and Eagles is a clear differentiator from the hunt that led the Browns to Shurmur and Mangini. 2
Of course none of this guarantees the Browns will get it right, whatever “it” is anyway. There’s never any guarantee of that. At this point all you can do is judge the process. That being the case and given the most recent comparisons for Browns fans, this search appears to be off to a decent start at least.
At the time I gave Holmgren the benefit of the doubt on this point assuming he had talked to those candidates. I’ve never been afraid to admit when I was wrong.
And even if you love Eric Mangini, it’s hard to say the search that landed him in Cleveland was exhaustive.