The Cleveland Browns can cross Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase off their wish list.
Gase might have been the team's top target to replace Rob Chudzinski, who was fired Dec. 29 after going 4-12 during his only season on the job. But now owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner have no choice but to continue their laborious head-coaching search without Gase in the running.
Gase called the Browns on Tuesday morning and told them he would not interview for their vacancy after facing the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2, a league source confirmed for the Akron Beacon Journal. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the team isn't commenting on interviews during its seemingly never-ending quest.
The Browns are the lone NFL team without a head coach. Six others have filled vacancies this offseason.
So where does Gase's decision leave Haslam and Banner?
They conducted a second interview with Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on Tuesday night in Mobile, Ala., a source confirmed. Most of the NFL is congregated in Mobile this week for Saturday's Senior Bowl and the practices preceding it, so the Browns' brass traveled there Tuesday to rendezvous with Pettine, whose first interview was Jan. 16.
The Browns also are likely to set up a second meeting with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn for later this week. Because Quinn will be in the Super Bowl, NFL rules stipulate that the meeting must occur no later than Sunday. On Jan. 1, Quinn became the first candidate to interview with the Browns.
Quinn, 43, and Pettine, 47, are viewed as serious contenders for the job. Both run hybrid schemes that would mesh well with the 3-4, multi-front defense the Browns adopted this past season. But neither has been a head coach.
NFL rules prohibit teams from striking deals with assistant coaches who are still in the playoffs. So if the Browns want to hire Quinn, they wouldn't be able to do so until after the Super Bowl. Anyone who's not involved in the Super Bowl, like Pettine, could accept an offer any time.
The Browns reportedly interviewed two other candidates who haven't been eliminated from the mix: Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak. But the organization might be more interested in Munchak as an offensive line coach or a coordinator, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported.
Meanwhile, another name was added to the list of known candidates Tuesday when Fox Sports' Alex Marvez reported the Browns will interview Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for their head-coaching job.
The Browns tried to interview Koetter last year before they hired Chudzinski. However, he signed a contract extension with the Falcons and canceled meetings he had scheduled with the Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, who went on to hire Chip Kelly.
Koetter, 54, has served as the Falcons' offensive coordinator the past two seasons. He was the offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007-11.
Koetter also has 22 years of collegiate coaching experience. He was the head coach at Arizona State University (2001-06) and Boise State University (1998-2000).
Last month, he interviewed for a chance to reclaim Boise State's head-coaching job, but the school hired Bryan Harsin instead.
There's always a possibility other candidates could surface like Koetter, though no word of additional interviews has leaked yet.
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Tuesday during a season wrap-up news conference that he talked to the Browns about some assistant coaches on his staff. ESPN.com reported the Browns did background research on 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula last week. The 49ers' assistants, including Tomsula, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, are free to talk after being eliminated by the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game this past weekend. But at this point, it's still unknown whether the Browns will interview any of them.
Gase not a surprise
The Browns were almost certainly disappointed to learn Gase has dropped out, but no one should be shocked.
When the Browns and Minnesota Vikings requested permission to interview Gase a few weeks ago, he told both teams he would postpone those opportunities until the Broncos were done with the postseason. Gase's choice raised legitimate questions about whether he wanted to leave the Broncos this year.
The Vikings moved on and hired Mike Zimmer as their new head coach while the Browns waited in hope of interviewing Gase.
Gase is only 35, and he's in his first season as a coordinator at any level. He helped the Broncos set a single-season NFL record with 606 points, and quarterback Peyton Manning set records with 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdown passes.
So by sticking with Manning for another season, Gase will have a chance to significantly raise his profile, and he could become one of the hottest head-coaching candidates next year. He and his agent, Bob LaMonte, are certainly aware of the possibility.
In the meantime, the Broncos will be thrilled to keep him. Executive John Elway recently praised Gase and said he didn't want him to leave.
Gase became a perceived favorite of the Browns for a few reasons. One, he received the team's first interview request after it fired Chudzinski. Two, he's a young, offensive-minded coach, so he fits a profile that has attracted Banner in the past. And three, he has received rave reviews from Manning, who is a friend of Haslam.
The Browns expected to interview Gase, even though he told them to wait upon receiving their initial request. Now they know it won't happen.
Gase is actually the third candidate to withdraw from consideration for the gig. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles dropped out earlier this month after interviewing with Haslam and Banner.
And two other candidates took jobs with different teams after interviewing with the Browns. Former San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt became the Titans' new coach, and ex-Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo became the New York Giants' offensive coordinator.
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