If anything is clear about the Browns' search for a head coach, it is that the team is not necessarily wed to a candidate's specific background.
Conventional wisdom has the Browns focusing on a coach with strong offensive roots, such as Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
However, the way they've proceeded the past few weeks indicates they're open to going with someone from the other side of the ball.
So far, according to media reports, the team has (or has had) at least three defensive coordinators on its list of potential hires. The Browns have reportedly interviewed Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles (who has since withdrawn his name from consideration), and were planning to interview Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine today.
This approach makes sense for multiple reasons.
One, the Browns have yet to interview Gase, and might not have the chance to do so until after the Super Bowl on Feb. 2. They're still in the process of learning all they can about him, and determining whether, at 35, he truly is ready to be a head coach in the NFL. If they have the opportunity to speak with him and determine they would rather go in a different direction, then having a list of other possibilities is prudent.
Two, there is nothing that says the Browns, despite the likelihood of using a high draft pick on a quarterback and wanting to field a dynamic offense, couldn't achieve those goals with a defensive-minded head coach. For the record, three of the four teams in Sunday's conference championship games – Denver's John Fox, New England's Bill Belichick, and Seattle's Pete Carroll – are former defensive coordinators. Yet, the Broncos and Patriots are ranked first and seventh in the NFL, respectively, in total offense, while the Seahawks have the league's fourth-best rushing attack. The Broncos and Pats also have the game's two best quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, while Seattle has one of the top young players at the position in Russell Wilson.
History has shown, and this year's final four serves as a reminder, that quality defensive-oriented head coaches are more than capable of hiring quality offensive coordinators and are able to incorporate their vast knowledge about how to stop offenses into their efforts to make them better.
Three, the strength of the Browns' roster resides on defense. The Browns' goal entering last season was to build a dominant front seven that would feature a ferocious pass rush and accelerate their ability to become competitive. That plan worked for about the first five games of the season. After that, the defense mostly collapsed.
A defensive-minded head coach could be the answer to resurrecting that plan while also having the right offensive coordinator to bring along a young quarterback and work with enhancements that are expected to be made to the offense via the draft and free agency.
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