Matt Eberflus likely walked into his interview for the Browns’ heading coaching job confident — and tired.
Less than 24 hours after the Colts beat the Texans 21-7 in the wild-card round of the playoffs in Houston, Eberflus met with Browns general manager John Dorsey and the search committee Sunday in Indianapolis.
Eberflus is in his first year as Indianapolis’ defensive coordinator. The defense’s season-long turnaround continued in the postseason, as the Colts held the Texans to 322 yards, including 117 in a first-half shutout.
Eberflus, 48, has never been a head coach at any level. But he’s respected, has done a tremendous job with the Colts and has deep Ohio ties.
He’s from Toledo and is enshrined in the University of Toledo Hall of Fame. He was a three-year starter at linebacker and a captain for the Rockets, then stayed as an assistant coach for nine years.
After eight years as coordinator at Missouri — his first time running the defense — he made the jump to the NFL in 2009 as linebackers coach for the Browns. He was hired by coach Eric Mangini and worked under coordinator Rob Ryan. He coached the likes of Kamerion Wimbley, David Bowens, Scott Fujita and Eric Barton.
The Browns have had eight full-time coaches since returning in 1999, and three had previously worked as Cleveland assistants — Romeo Crennel, Mangini and Rob Chudzinski.
When asked by Colts.com for his best football memory, Eberflus said the Browns’ 34-14 win over the Patriots in November 2010.
Mangini and his staff were fired less than two months later and Eberflus followed Ryan to the Cowboys. Eberflus outlasted Ryan and stayed in Dallas for seven years before joining the Colts after last season.
The transition wasn’t smooth, as Josh McDaniels reneged after accepting the head coaching job. Colts general manager Chris Ballard wanted Eberflus regardless, and Frank Reich kept him after replacing McDaniels.
“I just have a lot of respect for him,” Reich told reporters recently. “High character and integrity as a person, just stands for everything that we would want, carries himself the way we would want a coach to carry himself.”
Eberflus coached in a 3-4 system with the Browns but prefers going with four defensive linemen. In Indianapolis he made the switch to a 4-3 system that plays a lot of Tampa-2 zone coverage.
The Colts went from the 30th-ranked defense the past two seasons to 11th this year, allowing 339.4 yards a game. They ranked 10th in scoring (21.5 points), eighth against the run (101.6), 16th against the pass (237.8) and tied for 19th with 38 sacks, 13 more than last year.
Eberflus is described as demanding but not a screamer and stresses constant effort. He tracks “loafs” when grading the film, noting when players don’t run to the ball on every play.
“There is no hiding in the system,” Eberflus told reporters during the season. “You can’t hide. You can’t hide the effort. You can’t hide the execution. So the players know that.
“We tell them, too, ‘It’s not for everybody.’”
“You see him, and you hear him,” Reich said. “You know: He’s no frills, he’s the same all the time, he’s uncompromising in his beliefs and in his convictions.”
Dorsey spent the last six days interviewing a candidate a day and is expected to continue the process for the next couple of days.
ESPN reported Sunday the committee is Dorsey, owner Jimmy Haslam, executive vice president J.W. Johnson, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, assistant GM Eliot Wolf and vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry.
A team spokesman said other people are involved but wouldn’t elaborate. Owner Dee Haslam and vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith would make sense to be included.
Dorsey has been unwilling to reveal the makeup of the committee.
Interim coach Gregg Williams, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, Saints assistant coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell and Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores have already interviewed.
Offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens and former Packers coach Mike McCarthy are expected to interview in the next couple of days, with Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni also a possibility.
Coaches on playoff teams with a first-round bye had to interview by Sunday or not until their team is eliminated. That means the Browns didn’t interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Chiefs assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Dave Toub or Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.