BEREA — Cross Jon Gruden off the list.
Gruden, the pick of many Browns fans to be the next coach, told a radio audience after the BCS championship early Tuesday morning that he’d return for a third season of ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”
Browns president Mike Holmgren gave Gruden his coaching start in the NFL and Gruden grew up a Browns fan in Sandusky, so he seemed like a logical choice to replace Eric Mangini, who was fired Jan. 3. But broadcast partner Mike Tirico asked Gruden if he was going to take a coaching job following Auburn’s win over Oregon for the national title.
“No. I’ll be back with you,” Gruden said.
Holmgren was left to continue the search without the biggest free-agent name available, and didn’t miss a beat. He interviewed Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell on Tuesday.
Fewell was the third known candidate to interview and left Browns headquarters just after 4 p.m. He followed Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, who met with the Browns front office last week.
Fewell has interviewed with three teams — Panthers and Broncos — for head coaching jobs in the week and a half since the regular season ended. The Panthers hired Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera on Tuesday, while the Broncos’ search continues.
Fewell, 48, satisfies the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview a minority for a head coaching vacancy.
He seems the longest shot to get the Browns job among the three known candidates. Holmgren is an offensive mastermind and struggled to accept Mangini’s defensive tendencies in 2010. He would seem to gravitate toward offensive coaches.
But Fewell has a worthy resume. He was interim coach with the Bills in 2009, going 3-4, but Chan Gailey got the permanent job. The Giants had the NFL’s seventh-ranked defense under Fewell in 2010 and led the league with 39 takeaways.
He’s been described as a man of integrity with a strong presence. He was also a defensive coordinator in Jacksonville and Buffalo and coached receivers at Kent State from 1998-2001.
Holmgren may still wish to interview ex-Panthers coach John Fox, who’s scheduled to meet with the Broncos today. Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is also a possibility, but nothing’s been set up yet.
Shurmur has been called the front-runner by many national reporters. If that’s the case, the process could speed up in the next few days.
If the Browns wish to meet with Mularkey again, they’ll have to wait. The Falcons are the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and host Green Bay on Saturday.
The Browns assistant coaches remain under contract, except for receivers coach George McDonald, who took the same job with the University of Miami.
A meeting between Holmgren and the assistants scheduled for Monday was postponed. Their futures with the team will likely be decided by the next coach.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.