An interim coach won over many Browns fans this season.
A former interim coach caught the attention of Browns general manager John Dorsey and earned an interview.
Dorsey and the search committee sat down with Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell on Friday in Louisiana, the Browns announced. He’s believed to be a serious candidate and has reportedly drawn interest from the Cardinals and Packers.
Campbell, 42, has spent the last three years learning from Sean Payton, the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning coach. Also valuable on Campbell’s resume is a 12-game stint as Dolphins interim coach in 2015.
He took over for the fired Joe Philbin after a 1-3 start, went 5-7 and received positive reviews.
Gregg Williams replaced Hue Jackson in Cleveland on Oct. 29 and went 5-3 as interim coach. He interviewed Tuesday for the permanent job but is considered a long shot.
When Campbell didn’t get the permanent job in Miami, he reconnected with Payton. They had spent time together with the Cowboys — Campbell as a player, Payton as an assistant — under Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells.
“You don’t know exactly what you’re looking for until you get thrust into that role like I did at Miami,” Campbell said last month, via ESPN.com. “Well, once that doesn’t work out, I have a chance to come and learn under Sean, and now you know what you’re looking for, and now you know the questions to ask.
“So to be able to watch and learn under Sean and see how he deals with situations, see how he deals with management of a game, how he deals with personnel, how he deals with scheme. Just dealing with people, scheduling — everything. You talk about a wealth of knowledge now. So it’s been extremely helpful.”
Campbell was a 6-foot-5, 265-pound tight end who played 10 years in the NFL with the Giants, Cowboys and Lions. He started 76 of 114 games, was considered more blocker than receiver and finished his career with 91 catches for 934 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He quickly moved to a coaching career in 2010 as an intern with the Dolphins, then led their tight ends for four years before making the unexpected in-season jump to interim coach.
The Saints (13-3) are the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and have a bye this weekend, which allows Campbell to interview.
Dorsey said he’s looking for a man of character and someone who can lead young men. Campbell seems to fit the description.
“He’s a guy who played a long time,” quarterback Drew Brees told ESPN. “So he’s got a level of respect coming from guys for how he played — he’s a tough, physical guy. He just really cares about his players. You can see that in the way he talks to us, talks to his position group. He’s just got a lot of great leadership qualities in that way. And I think he’s just a good person.
“So you combine all those things, and then he’s a person that you want to follow. And a person you believe in and you know he’s gonna be honest with you.”
The Browns, who have one of eight coaching openings throughout the NFL, have interviewed a candidate a day since Tuesday and are expected to continue into the weekend.
Campbell followed Williams, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell and Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. Dorsey also reportedly requested interviews with Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.
The Colts play the Texans on Saturday. If the Colts lose, Eberflus and Sirianni will be available immediately. If they win, they would have to interview before the divisional round of the playoffs next weekend.
Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy is also expected to interview next week, as well as Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.
If Kitchens doesn’t get the head coaching job, he could remain as coordinator depending on the coach. The Browns have denied requests by other teams to interview Kitchens for coordinator jobs. Campbell and Kitchens have ties to Parcells.
Defensive end Myles Garrett and left guard Joel Bitonio were named to the Associated Press All-Pro second team.
No Browns made the first team. The All-Pro team is chosen by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who cover the league.
Garrett had 13.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 44 tackles. He was voted a Pro Bowl starter last month.
Chicago’s Khalil Mack and Houston’s J.J. Watt were voted first-team All-Pro at edge rusher. Garrett joined Denver’s Von Miller, New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan and Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter on the second team.
Bitonio, who didn’t miss an offensive snap, was named first alternate to the Pro Bowl. Profootballfocus.com graded him fourth among guards in the NFL.
Indianapolis’ Quenton Nelson was named the first-team All-Pro left guard.
Left tackle Joe Thomas in 2015 was the Browns’ most recent first-team All-Pro.