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Dorsey’s casting wide net for Browns coaching search

By MARY KAY CABOT • Jan 1, 2019 at 8:00 AM

BEREA — John Dorsey knows he has two good head coaching candidates in the building in interim coach Gregg Williams and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.

But he’s still casting a wide net in his search and has already reached out to more than half a dozen other candidates.

“I want to be able to see everything,’’ Dorsey said during a press conference Monday morning after the Browns closed out the season at 7-8-1 with a 26-24 loss to the Ravens. “But you don't want to sell yourself short. Why not go see other people out there, too, just to see? We talk about doing our due diligence and what's best for this organization. Why not go and look at everybody?"

Competing with seven other NFL teams for the top candidates, Dorsey kicked off the interviewing process with Williams on Tuesday and Kitchens soon after. He promised to be ‘very thorough and very deliberate’ and leave no stone unturned.

He’s also requested permission to interview the following NFL assistants, according to reports: Patriots’ top defensive assistant Brian Flores, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and Saints’ assistant head coach/tight ends Dan Campbell.

He’s also reached out to former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who he worked with for seven years in Green Bay, and might have fired Dolphins coach Adam Gase on his radar. Gase and Jimmy Haslam are both close to Peyton Manning, and Manning recommended him for the last two coaching Browns coaching searches.

One NFL assistant the Browns haven’t requested permission to interview yet is Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Canton-area native who’s pulled his name from consideration by the Browns in the past. It could be significant, because McDaniels, who’s drawn interest from the Packers, has a bye this weekend and can be interviewed.

Dorsey might also look to the college ranks for his coach of the future.

“I have a lot of guys in my head right now,’’ he said “And I had them when I was unemployed (last Fall), as well.’’

He re-iterated that he’s looking for a leader of men.

“A guy who can instill leadership into these young men, a guy who’s collaborative thinker, a guy who’s a continuous learner, a guy who’s consistent on a day in, day out basis, who those players can look up to and go, ‘you know what? I’ll follow that guy anywhere,’’’ he said. “Once you can get a guy and identify a guy like that, those are the type of guys you’re looking for, and that’s the goal of this organization is to get what’s best for this organization, find a man of character who can lead young men.’’

As for Williams, who went 5-3 as the interim coach, “I want to see his overarching vision and plan for this organization moving forward. I want to hear his thoughts on the team moving forward, but I also want to be able to explore multiple options out there in the National Football League and just see who fits for this organization. There may be some guys out there we don’t know about yet. I just want to explore all options and make the best decision for this organization.”

He said Freddie Kitchens, who awakened the sleeping Browns’ offense, earned an interview with the great job he did in the second half of the season, during which Baker Mayfield became one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL.

“He’s done a nice job in his role as offensive coordinator and I think this organization wants to get to know him a little bit better and we’ll eventually get him in an interview slot and just move forward.”

He also won’t impose Kitchens on the new head coach if he doesn’t get the job.

“I think he’s got to have the ability to hire his staff,’’ said Dorsey. “Will we make suggestions? Yeah, I think that’s what all people do. But at the end of the day it’s going to be whoever that head coach is, it’s going to be his decision if he stays or if he leaves.”

He acknowledged the job Williams did in getting the players to win after Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired midseason.

“I applaud him for that because he's kind of got these guys believing, he's brought them in together as one, he's got them playing hard, that's all you can ask for,’’ said Dorsey. “You play like you practice and for eight weeks these guys have practiced really hard.’’

He said he won’t hold BountyGate against Williams, the pay-to-injure scheme he ran in New Orleans for which he was suspended by the NFL for a year.

“I think he’s paid his penalty for that,’’ said Dorsey. “No, I mean, we’re going to factor in everything. Let’s interview all the guys, come together and realize what’s best for this organization.’’

Williams said Sunday that he’d love to remain here and loves Cleveland. If not, he hinted he might have other head coaching opportunities.

“Yes,’’ he said. “There is word on the street that, possibly, yes.”

Dorsey indicated he believes that Jimmy and Dee Haslam will approve the candidate that he and his unidentified small in-house search team decide upon.

“Hopefully we've earned the trust from ownership when we make a recommendation with them that we feel that this is the best coach moving forward,’’ he said. “Hopefully we've earned that trust and they respect that."

He said he’ll be thorough in the process and “I don’t think you can put a timetable on this one.’’

He acknowledged that Baker Mayfield’s future will be a factor in the decision, but that he won’t be directly involved.

“We understand who Baker is, but when you interview coaches, you want to ask them, what do you think of our team, strengths or weaknesses, how can you build upon that, that's what you look for in these types of interview sessions,’’ he said. “The quarterback, this is a quarterback-driven league and he's a very important piece to that. But will he have any say in the interview? No. Let management take care of that.’’

Likewise he doesn’t think the absence of Kitchens would be a setback for his young QB.

“A mark of a good coach is being able to create a relationship with a player, especially at that position,’’ said Mayfield. “Freddie's done a wonderful job. That's a hypothetical I can't answer right now."

He re-iterated that this is one of the most attractive jobs of the eight current vacancies.

“You have a young quarterback, you have a young pass rusher, you have a young team, very dynamic team,’’ he said. “You have a really good locker room in there. You have assets in place with regards to the salary cap, you have assets in place for the draft, you have strong ownership, committed ownership and then you have a committed fan base and there's a bright future with this organization and hopefully they can see what we see here.’’

He steadfastly refused to confirm any of the outside candidates and will play it close to the vest until the end.

On Flores, he said, “he’s a very highly-qualified young man, but I’m not going to talk about the guys we’re going to possibly interview.’’

On McCarthy, he said, “I have a lot of respect for Mike McCarthy and for what he’s done. But again, I’m not going to go into details about who is or is not on our list.

He acknowledged the magnitude of the decision.

“This is a hard process and that’s why you have to be prepared, you have to be detailed, you have to be able to listen,’’ he said. “And at the end of the day you have to sit and talk through things and make sure this is the proper way we move forward.’’

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