As Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was driven away from Browns headquarters at 5:11 p.m. Friday, the clock started.
The Browns had just completed the eighth and final interview during their latest search for a head coach by hosting McDaniels for seven hours. The team’s decision-makers, led by owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, planned to take the night to reflect on the candidates.
The hope was to have a decision Saturday or Sunday, a league source told The Chronicle-Telegram.
The Browns previously interviewed former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. McCarthy was subsequently hired by the Cowboys.
McDaniels, Schwartz and Daboll can be hired at any time. Stefanski (Saturday vs. the 49ers), Bieniemy (Sunday vs. the Texans), Saleh (Saturday vs. the Vikings) and Roman (Saturday vs. the Titans) will coach in the playoffs this weekend and can’t be hired until their team is eliminated or wins the Super Bowl.
That wouldn’t stop the Browns from reaching an agreement with their pick.
The organization promised a disciplined and thorough search and remained committed to the process — led by chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta — even after the hometown guy with all the hype concluded the eight interviews in eight days.
McDaniels, 43, was raised in the Canton area and played quarterback at Canton McKinley High School for his dad, Thom, a legendary coach in Northeast Ohio. McDaniels, who played receiver for John Carroll University, interviewed with the Browns in 2009 with then-owner Randy Lerner and again in 2014 after the Haslams had bought the team in 2012. Eric Mangini was hired in 2009, and Mike Pettine got the job in 2014 after McDaniels withdrew from consideration.
The time could finally be right for McDaniels to fulfill his dream of coaching the hometown team. He flew in with his wife on the Haslams’ private plane, reportedly wants the job and would bring an impressive resume.
He’s been on coach Bill Belichick’s staff for all six of the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins, the last three as coordinator. He joined the Patriots in 2001 as a personnel assistant and has coached Tom Brady and the quarterbacks for 13 of his 16 seasons with New England.
McDaniels is widely respected for his offensive mind, and many people considered him the favorite entering the search that began when Freddie Kitchens was fired Dec. 29 after going 6-10 in his only season.
But McDaniels, 43, as the 18th full-time coach in Browns history isn’t a certainty. The Haslams must be sure McDaniels is the right man to end the constant turnover since they took ownership — coach Hue Jackson’s 2½-year tenure is the longest for a coach or head of the football department.
McDaniels was hired as coach of the Broncos in 2009 and didn’t last two seasons. He won his first six games, then lost 17 of the last 22. And two years ago he agreed to coach the Colts before backing out at the last minute.
McDaniels also has to be comfortable with the Haslams and their organizational setup. The plan is for the coach to help pick the general manager, then the coach, GM and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta report directly to ownership.
McDaniels had expansive power during his time with the Broncos and may have asked for more than the Browns intended to give. The Haslams could have to make a choice between McDaniels and DePodesta.
DePodesta’s contract is up after four years, and while Jimmy Haslam said DePodesta would remain in the same influential role, the weekend could end with McDaniels as coach and DePodesta on the way back to his home in the San Diego area.
McDaniels seems ready to come home and ready to be a head coach again. He’s said he learned a lot from the disappointment in Denver, admitting he didn’t relate well to the players and was too hard on his assistant coaches.
“I don’t know that I was as patient as I needed to be in most situations, whether it was game-planning, on the sidelines, preparation for the draft, personnel moves, whatever,” McDaniels told Bleacher Report in 2016. “There is an element of this game that tests your ability to slow down and make a good decision. I was allowing the way I felt at the moment to make the decision.
“I’ve had an opportunity to truly understand the value of interpersonal relationships and the feelings people have in the building, coach to player, player to coach, person to person. I don’t know that I ever considered that before.”
McDaniels began his coaching career in 1999 as a graduate assistant at Michigan State. He was hired by the Patriots in 2001 and has spent all but three years with them. After his stint in Denver, he was coordinator for the Rams in 2011.
He and Brady have spent most of their professional lives together.
“Josh and I have had a great relationship for 18 years, and he’s one of my best friends,” Brady told reporters during training camp in 2018. “I love working with him. We’ve had a very special relationship that I cherish, and it’s been that way for a long time.”
McDaniels is expected to bring someone from the New England front office as the general manager. Director of player personnel Nick Caserio and director of pro personnel Dave Ziegler have been mentioned, but Keith Britton of WKRK 92.3-FM reported Caserio won’t be coming.
McDaniels, Caserio and Ziegler were teammates at John Carroll in the late 1990s.