Browns re­mains coach­less as 2-week search drags on

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

CLEVE­LAND (AP) >> The in­ter­views are over. The wait con­tin­ues. The Browns are still coach­less.

Af­ter meet­ing with eight can­di­dates the past two weeks, Cleve­land still hasn’t de­cided on a choice for its next coach. The un­cer­tainty could carry through an­other NFL play­off week­end for a team that be­gan this year with big ex­pec­ta­tions and fired Fred­die Kitchens af­ter a 6-10 sea­son.

Owner Jimmy Haslam and his search com­mit­tee, guided by chief strat­egy of­fi­cer Paul DePodesta, met with Pa­tri­ots of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Josh McDaniels for seven hours Fri­day. But the six-time Su­per Bowl win­ner re­turned to Bos­ton with­out be­ing of­fered a job that he’s been con­nected with three times.

McDaniels was thought to be fa­vored by Haslam, who has fired five coaches since buy­ing the Browns in 2012. But at this point, there doesn’t seem to be any clear front-run­ner, and it’s pos­si­ble the Browns could be wait­ing for Satur­day’s play­off games to con­clude be­fore mak­ing their next move.

Two can­di­dates, Vik­ings of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kevin Ste­fan­ski and 49ers de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Robert Saleh, will go head to head in what could be a fi­nal, live au­di­tion for the Browns. Two oth­ers, Ravens of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Ro­man and Chiefs of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Eric Bie­niemy, have play­off games Sun­day.

Ste­fan­ski was a fi­nal­ist a year ago and the 37-yearold is con­sid­ered one of the league’s ris­ing coach­ing stars. So is Saleh, and the fiery 40-year-old re­port­edly blew away the Browns dur­ing his meet­ing with them last week.

Per NFL rules, the Browns can’t of­fi­cially hire a coach un­til his cur­rent team’s sea­son ends, so it could be that the Browns are just in a hold­ing pat­tern. They can reach an agree­ment with a can­di­date, but a con­tract can’t be signed.

Haslam and his group also in­ter­viewed Bills of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Brian Daboll and Ea­gles de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz.

For­mer Pack­ers coach Mike McCarthy was the first can­di­date to meet with the Browns, but he was hired by Dal­las.

The Browns are also in the mar­ket for a new gen­eral man­ager to re­placed John Dorsey, who brought tal­ent to Cleve­land but was dis­missed af­ter the sea­son when he de­clined to ac­cept a lesser role. Haslam wants his new coach to help pick his next GM.

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