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Brian Callahan followed advice, footsteps of dad, Bill, then got him to come to Titans

INDIANAPOLIS — Brian Callahan wasn’t sure he’d ever get the chance to work with his famous father.

Bill Callahan, a former NFL head coach, told Brian early in his career he wouldn’t hire him because he’d be better off creating a path on his own. Then when Brian started to get head coach interviews last offseason, Bill told him he was happy as the Browns’ offensive line coach and wouldn’t join him.

Brian is ecstatic Bill had a change of heart.

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The Titans hired Brian, 39, as head coach in January after five years as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator. Bill, 67, decided he wanted to follow, and the Browns let him out of his contract despite viewing him as the NFL’s best line coach.

“He had made a very pointed emphasis that I should try my own way and not work for him,” Brian said Tuesday at the scouting combine. “He never wanted to be one to give me a job. He felt like it would serve me better if I went my own direction and earned my way through it. I think that was the best advice he’s probably given me. It’s worked out great that way.”

That didn’t stop Brian from wanting to be on the same staff as his dad. They faced off for the last four years inside the AFC North and have formed the NFL’s first son-father head coach-assistant combination.

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“I’ve always wanted to work with him,” Brian said. “Never knew if I’d have an opportunity, to be honest. We had a conversation really the year previous when I was interviewing for a couple of jobs and he had said that we wouldn’t work together, that he was very happy where he was at and didn’t really want to leave and felt like I should do that on my own.

“It just timed up great. It’s kind of where he’s at in his career. The opportunity to have him come to Tennessee, the timing was perfect. I didn’t really know if he wanted to come or not until I got the job. I was kind of working off the assumption that he was that way last year where he wasn’t interested, but thrilled to have him and be able to work with him every day.”

General manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski knew Bill might want to leave, were hoping he wouldn’t and decided the right thing was to let him.

“It was tough,” Berry said. “I think all of us realize that it’s pretty unique for a situation where a father gets to work with his son in the NFL, but at the same time trying to balance the fact that really just purely the best thing for the organization was for Bill to be our offensive line coach. But that’s one of those moments where some of those decisions go really beyond football. That’s just a really special moment for Bill and Brian.

“We will miss him, he’s rare, he’s one of honestly my favorite coaches that I’ve ever worked with. But at the same time, life does go on.”

The Browns hired Andy Dickerson to replace Bill, and Roy Istvan to replace Scott Peters as assistant line coach. Peters followed coordinator Alex Van Pelt to the Patriots and will be the top line coach.

Brian Callahan wasn’t sure the Browns would give Bill the OK to leave.

“Thankfully I think it was such a unique situation for him and in the league in general. It hasn’t happened ever before. So I’m appreciative of Cleveland willing to work through that with us,” he said. “I’m sure obviously they didn’t want to let him go, either, and he was under contract. They didn’t have to. So appreciative of them understanding and knowing the uniqueness of the situation. Nothing’s easy in the NFL when you’re under contract.”

Stefanski said earlier this month he looked forward to Brian bossing around Bill.

“There’s not a whole lot of bossing around,” Brian said. “There’s not many people that are going to tell him how to do his job. He’s about as good at it as anybody.

“It’s been really fun for me. It’s been a dream come true to be able to sit and have a cup of coffee with my dad in the morning and talk about what we got coming up that day and talk about pass protection and technique and watch him do his job, too, has been really fun. It’s been awesome.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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