The Browns have cleaned house, firing head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert on Monday. Despite the recent football history in Cleveland, there are many reasons to think the Browns job is an attractive one.
They have a franchise running back in Trent Richardson (who apparently played half of 2012 with broken ribs), a franchise left tackle in Joe Thomas and a stud cornerback in Joe Haden. Heckhert, despite losing his job, positioned this franchise well; he was more a victim of new ownership wanting "their guys" in place.
One interesting -- and potentially scary? -- note to the Browns' search is that they'll be looking for a coach first, before hiring a general manager. Typically speaking, you want the GM to pick the coach, but it's clear that the power structure isn't going to operate in a traditional fashion in Cleveland. Joe Banner might have a little bit of power, huh?
But it also appears to indicate Cleveland wants a coach who's looking for some heavy input into the personnel. Let's look at some candidates.
Jon Gruden, ESPN: CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman reported that Gruden will interview for jobs. The former Buccaneers and Raiders coach is a native of Sandusky, Ohio, and played college football at Dayton. He has ties to the region. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is a huge University of Tennessee booster and was rumored to be trying to lure Gruden to Knoxville; what if he just throws the bank at Gruden to bring him to Cleveland? It would be surprising if the "Monday Night Football" broadcaster left without a franchise quarterback, but considering a) we know of only one quarterback (Mark Sanchez) that he doesn't like, and b) the Browns don't get prime-time game, it's hard to know how he feels about Brandon Weeden.
Nick Saban, Alabama: A long shot? Perhaps. Maybe definitely. But Saban worked for the Browns for three years under Bill Belichick and he might view Cleveland as a situation where he's capable of turning things around quickly. There's no telling if he's "bored" at Alabama (why would you get bored with winning national titles?), but, if he is, Cleveland could provide a low-risk, high-reward return to the NFL with a chance to truly redeem his legacy after failing and leaving the Dolphins early. He'd also have patient ownership, a nice talent base and a rabid fan base backing his every move.
Josh McDaniels, OC, Patriots: McDaniels' name has been thrown around a lot with respect to the Cleveland gig; there's no telling how much is smoke and how much is actual fire. Given McDaniels' struggles managing talent with the Broncos, there might be some concern with him grabbing a ton of organizational power. His highs with Denver were high and his lows were loooooow, but there's no question he's a smart offensive mind. The question is whether he wants to leave New England and Tom Brady again. That's a cushy gig.
Chip Kelly, Oregon: I mean, what do these names say about the state of the Browns gig? That it's pretty good. Kelly reportedly wants plenty of power to run a team and he would likely get it in Cleveland. If concerns about NCAA scrutiny of the Ducks are more than a mere annoyance, Kelly might be looking to bounce, and the Browns could be a solid fit with plenty of young talent on both sides of the ball and the ability to keep restocking via the draft. Kelly would be a monster splash for Haslam and Banner.
Mike McCoy, OC, Broncos: McCoy's name has been all over place in coaching rumors, and with good reason: He fashioned an offense around Tim Tebow in 2011, managed to make the playoffs and casually ran the Broncos offense up to a No. 1 seed in the AFC with Peyton Manning under center. Banner said the team doesn't have a preference about whether they might go for an offensive or defensive coach, and it's possible that Shurmur's lack of success might move them away from the offensive end, but McCoy's very much a viable candidate.
Aaron Kromer, OL, Saints: According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, Kromer is one of four coaches (two of which are from college, two from the pros, ahem, see above) who are already considered candidates for the Browns job. Kromer is reportedly one of the pro coaches; he's a guy who has quietly risen up the ranks as a viable candidate thanks to the Saints success on offense. He went 2-4 as interim-to-the-interim coach for New Orleans this season in a difficult situation. He's also a name that the Browns could come back to if they whiff on any bigger candidates out there.