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Posted by Jan - 10 - 2013 0 Comment

In all the years I have followed sports, I cannot recall a head coaching search that has been bantered about and abused more than this current one for the Cleveland Browns. Two weeks ago, Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banter took center stage in Berea and said things like hiring a “greatest of all time” coach. They spoke of how they feel the Browns head coaching job is as good if not better than all the other numerous head coaching vacancies open right now. Browns fans at New Year’s Eve parties across the town bantered about the list of potential targets that would certainly just take the job once JH3 opened his checkbook; Nick Saban, Chip Kelly, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher….whomever. For a moment the sentiment was that the Browns would hire quickly because it was simply a matter of the Browns having the pick of the litter from this year’s pool of candidates. Added to the list above were some of the recent HC firings, which put some interesting candidates out there. Yet, Haslam spoke of making a splash, and only those high profile names would do that here in Cleveland. The interviews would go like this: “Hi, (insert preferred name here) I am Jimmy Haslam, he is Joe Banner, and here is the offer.” “Hello, Mr. Haslam, Mr. Banner, I am (insert preferred name here) and this is what all head coaches could ever want. When do I start?” The three men would climb aboard JH3’s private jet and come back to Cleveland, and the Browns would be the talk of the league.

Except that hasn’t happened. Chip Kelly let both the Browns and Eagles get to third base, only to turn tail and head back to Oregon and Phil Knight’s money. While waiting on Kelly in the days leading up to the Fiesta Bowl, the Browns brass sat down with Ray Horton (the token Rooney Rule interview that Horton said went very well), Ken Wishenunt (who might be the current clubhouse leader if you listen to all the media fluff), and Bill O’Brien, who turned his NFL interview into a pay raise at Penn State. Since Kelly stood the Browns up for dinner last Saturday evening, they have interviewed Doug Marrone (now the HC in Buffalo), Marc Trestman, Mike Zimmer, Rob Chudzinski, Wisenhunt a second time (reported by Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer at the time of this post), and have asked for permission to talk with Bruce Arians (the odds on favorite for the San Diego job). That’s probably more people than Randy Lerner interviewed for the last 3 head coaching changes here combined. One thing you can’t say is that the Browns haven’t been thorough in their search, whether it was by design or by default.

Perhaps Haslam and Banner found themselves thinking the way Browns fans typically do at the start of each season. Overly optimistic in their expectations. Many fans have been critical of the new Browns front office in the way they have gone about their search. They say the Haslam/Banner duo are wearing egg on their faces after Chip Kelly spurned them. I’m not sure I agree with that. In the end it looks like Kelly wasn’t wholeheartedly looking to have an NFL coaching gig, or by now he’d have one, be it here or in Philly, who has employed a coaching search very similar to the one the Browns are in the midst of. Saban, Cowher, and Jon Gruden were unrealistic long shots, bantered about more because of Haslam’s deep pockets and distant connections to each of them. Surely they quietly coveted Saban, whom reinforced his stance on staying in Alabama with a very curmudgeon-esque  press conference following the BCS Championship game Tuesday. Then again, I recall being a teenager looking at the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue thinking I had a realistic chance of marrying Kathy Ireland. (Presently, Kathy is neither the current nor ex-Mrs. De Sha.) Yet, I would rather have a front office that has the occasional vision of grandeur and settles on a realistic yet qualified candidate rather than think they have no shot at the top targets and fail to take a stab at them.

Whomever the next head coach for the Cleveland Browns is, he will have his fair share of detractors as well as supporters. Some folks think that in Cleveland, you need to win over the fan base with the hire before winning games. In reality, it works the other way around. Then again in Cleveland, how often have we lived in reality? Much like The Grateful Dead, we have existed in our own version of reality for a long, long time. And while this has been a long, strange trip, here’s hoping it ends better for Browns fans than it did Jerry Garcia.

Categories: Cleveland Browns, Featured

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