Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Josh McDaniels.
The Browns announced they interviewed the New England Patriots offensive coordinator for their head coaching vacancy Friday at team headquarters in Berea, Ohio.
He brings Super Bowl rings, previous head coaching experience and baggage.
A Canton McKinley High School graduate, McDaniels interviewed to lead his hometown Browns in 2009 and 2014 but has yet to become their head coach.
Will this finally be the year it works out for both sides?
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McDaniels spent about seven hours with the Browns on Friday before leaving their facility shortly after 5 p.M. His interview ended without the organization making a decision on its next head coach, a person familiar with the search said.
The Browns don’t have any other interviews scheduled and now must decide how to proceed. They’re the only team in the NFL without a head coach, so they don’t feel a need to rush.
McDaniels became the eighth candidate to interview for the job this year. Among the other seven is Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who finished runner-up to Freddie Kitchens a year ago and met with the team Thursday.
McDaniels interviewed with former Browns owner Randy Lerner in 2009. Lerner hired Eric Mangini instead. But a little more than a week after McDaniels auditioned with Cleveland, the Denver Broncos made him, at the time, the sixth-youngest head coach in NFL history at age 32.
Then in 2014, McDaniels interviewed with Browns owner Jimmy Haslam during a marathon search that ended with the hiring of Mike Pettine. McDaniels withdrew from consideration during the 25-day odyssey, but Haslam has still been a big fan ever since.
Stefanski had the backing of Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta in 2019. Last week, Haslam said DePodesta would run the hiring process during this search, but ownership would make the final decision.
McDaniels, 43, has been with the Patriots for all nine of their Super Bowls, six of which they won, during the dynasty led by coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots have gone 3-2 in Super Bowls with McDaniels as their offensive coordinator, a position he has held for 11 seasons.
He has guided the Patriots offense to eight top-10 rankings, including the No. 1 spot in 2007, 2012 and 2017. In 2019, they finished 15th in yards (354) and seventh in points (26.2) per game.
After McDaniels played football at Canton McKinley for his father, Thom, a legendary high school coach, and John Carroll University, he spent the 1999 season as a graduate assistant under coach Nick Saban at Michigan State University.
Belichick hired him in 2001 as a Patriots personnel and coaches assistant. By 2004, he had worked his way up to quarterbacks coach and by 2006 offensive coordinator/QBs coach.
Sixteen of his 19 NFL seasons have been with the Patriots.
He left Belichick and Co. In 2009 to lead the Denver Broncos. It turned out to be a disaster.
McDaniels clashed with quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall and traded them.
The NFL fined McDaniels $50,000 for a spying scandal after he failed to report then-Broncos videographer Steve Scarnecchia for recording footage of a San Francisco 49ers practice on Oct. 30, 2010, in London.
The Broncos fired McDaniels after Week 13 of the 2010 season, his second with the team. He began his tenure 6-0 but lost 17 of his last 22 games and finished 11-17.
McDaniels spent the 2011 season as the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams before rejoining the Patriots in January 2012 as an offensive assistant shortly before they made their fifth Super Bowl appearance under Belichick but lost.
Another knock on McDaniels emerged in early 2018 when he agreed to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, only to bail on them and stay with the Patriots.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard is a friend of former Browns GM John Dorsey, who reached an agreement with the Browns last week to part ways after a 6-10 season. Dorsey led the coaching search last year when the Browns didn’t interview McDaniels, who auditioned with the Green Bay Packers in 2019 before they hired Matt LaFleur.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer recently said on the Ross Tucker Podcast that McDaniels left the Colts at the altar partly because their strength and conditioning, medical and video departments weren’t set up the way he desired, and in New England, the coach had power over those aspects of the organization.
McDaniels removed himself from the 49ers’ coaching search in 2017, and they hired former Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. McDaniels, who has four children, said staying in New England was best for his family.
His wife, Laura, accompanied him Friday on his trip to interview with the Browns, and the Canton Repository’s Steve Doerschuk reported Thursday it would be the case.
In a Repository story published in February 2017, Thom McDaniels expounded on Josh’s decision to back away from the 49ers and offered insight about his son’s approach to head coaching opportunities.
“That would have been a major move, from one coast to another and a very different culture,” Thom McDaniels told the Repository’s Joe Scalzo. “He’s at the point where he would love to be a head coach again, but he’s not desperate to become a head coach again. He has leverage in that he has a great job with a great organization with a great coach who lets him coach the offense. If he takes a job in the remaining years, it’s going to be because every single factor in the decision process fell in line.”.
Will the Browns meet McDaniels’ requirements?
For one, he would need to be comfortable with whoever sits in Dorsey’s old office. Haslam said last week the new head coach would be heavily involved in hiring a new GM. McDaniels could attempt to bring Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio or Patriots director of pro personnel Dave Ziegler to Cleveland. They all played football together at John Carroll.
And whether McDaniels and his trusted allies could co-exist with DePodesta is another question. It wouldn’t be surprising if they couldn’t.
It’s been well documented that McDaniels worked out Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2018 and loved the Heisman Trophy winner in the buildup to Dorsey drafting him first overall. So there’s a fit the Browns could rally behind.
In addition to McDaniels and Stefanski, the Browns have interviewed 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman and former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, whom the Dallas Cowboys hired earlier this week.
McDaniels had the final scheduled interview of the search — the same slot Kitchens filled last year — so the Browns could arrive at a decision this weekend.