CLEVELAND — Adam Gase was first up for the Browns. It’s not known where the team ranks on his list.
Gase was the first of two candidates interviewed Wednesday by the Browns, who are in search of their eighth coach since 1999 after Mike Pettine was fired Sunday following a season-ending loss to Pittsburgh.
The 37-year-old Gase has been on the team’s radar for several years. The Browns were interested in hiring him three years ago when he was with Denver, but Gase declined an interview to focus on the team’s run to the Super Bowl.
Gase received credit for getting the most out of Bears quarterback Jay Cuter, who posted a career-high passer rating (92.3) this season.
Prior to his stint with Chicago, Gase spent two seasons as Denver’s offensive co-ordinator working alongside quarterback Peyton Manning, who knows Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam.
If they decide to offer Gase their job, the Browns could have competition for him. He interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. He’s also expected to meet with Miami and the New York Giants about their openings.
The Browns also confirmed they interviewed Detroit defensive co-ordinator Teryl Austin on Wednesday. The club has interviews lined up with six other candidates this week, with the latest to be scheduled Dallas secondary coach Jerome Henderson, who previously coached Cleveland’s defensive backs.
The interviews took place on the road, giving the Haslams their first chance to work with a search committee comprised of newly appointed director of football operations Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, a former baseball executive and analytics expert hired on Tuesday, and Jed Hughes from consulting firm Korn Ferry.
The Haslams fired Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer after the team lost 18 of its last 21 games. The Haslams have already fired three coaches since taking over the franchise in 2012 and are determined to get this hire correct.
Once they find their coach, the Browns will turn their attention to finding a new GM, who will be in charge of acquiring talent but will defer control of the 53-man roster to Brown.
Austin’s interview will satisfy the NFL’s "Rooney Rule" requirement to speak with a minority candidate, but the 50-year-old has all the qualifications to take over a team.
He led Detroit’s defence to a No. 2 ranking in 2014. And although All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh left as a free agent and linebacker DeAndre Levy played in just one game because of a hip injury, the Lions ranked in the middle of the pack this season. Austin was also forced to play inexperienced players following a rash of injuries to his secondary.
"Given the opportunity, he’ll do good," Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "You never know. But I think he has the potential and the pedigree to do well. It just depends.
"A lot depends on success in the National Football League and it’s not just up under a head coach. It’s the organization as a whole and definitely players on your roster. A lot goes into the equation. He definitely would be a good variable in the equation."
Former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone is scheduled to meet with the Browns on Thursday. New England defensive co-ordinator Matt Patricia, Carolina defensive head Sean McDermott and Cincinnati offensive co-ordinator Hue Jackson and defensive co-ordinator Paul Guenther are also on Cleveland’s list, which could grow.
Haslam did not put a timetable on his search, saying it could last two weeks or two months. And despite nearly constant change in Cleveland, Haslam doesn’t think the Browns and their issues will scare off quality candidates.
"You look at the Browns’ track record and our track record as owner, you go ‘Well why in the hell would anybody want to go there?"’ Haslam said.
"And the response I get is the same whether it’s somebody that’s 45 or 75 — unbelievable football town, great fans, don’t laugh when I say this but only one way to go but up, plenty of draft picks — we’ve got 11 draft picks this year — some good young players. I still think this is a very attractive job."