CLEVELAND - The search the Browns will conduct to replace Rob Chudzinski as coach could include Northeast Ohio native and former Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels.
No names were mentioned by CEO Joe Banner and owner James Haslam during a press conference Monday, but Banner all but ruled out Penn State coach Bill O'Brien when he said it was unlikely that any interviews will be held with candidates interviewed for the opening last year.
That leaves McDaniels as the possible front-runner. He is currently offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. He coached the Broncos in 2009 and 12 games into the 2010 season before being fired. He was offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams in 2011 and then returned to the Patriots as their offensive coordinator to coach in the playoffs that same season.
The tie between McDaniels and the Browns doesn't surprise his father, Thom, who coached the Warren G. Harding Raiders from 2000-06.
"Every Black Monday his name comes up," Thom said. "Whether there's anything to it or not, I don't know. I haven't talked to Josh about it."
The Browns wanted to interview Josh as a possible replacement for Pat Shurmur last year. He declined because he wanted to maintain a stable home situation after his wife had given birth to a baby daughter in December.
The situation could be different this year, which could place McDaniels in the middle of the coaching search. On the surface it would seem to be a perfect move for McDaniels, who was born in Barberton and was a standout quarterback playing for his father at Canton McKinley High School.
There are other factors that might work against McDaniels interviewing, including the instability of working for a front office that hasn't established a reputation for being patient. Also, life in New England with a family that includes four children can be very good when you're employed by the Patriots, and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady share meeting rooms with you.
"I don't know. There are a lot of things for him to consider," Thom said. "He has one of the best jobs in the NFL working with Bill and Brady. He's happy where he is with the role he fills for the Patriots, and his family is happy.
"There are many layers to this whole thing."
Josh and Lombardi have never worked together, but Josh's ties to the Patriots and Belichick, Lombardi's buddy, might make him a favorite. Another factor is Josh's short relationship with Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, who was Brady's backup when Josh returned to New England in January of 2012 for the playoffs.
Josh's indoctrination as a head coach started with six straight wins by the Broncos in 2009. That quickly gave way to four straight losses and an 8-8 record.
McDaniels was fired after 12 games of the 2010 season. The Broncos were 3-9 at the time, dropping Josh's career record to 11-17.
Lombardi might see a young Belichick in Josh, who turns 38 in April. Belichick has made the most of his second chance after a five-year struggle with the Browns (1991-95). Perhaps there's a feeling in the front office that Josh learned from his mistakes in Denver.
Josh would have to weigh the opportunity for a second chance against the potential of failure if he's given an interview. If he's confident that management won't pull a one-and-done on him, it might be a worthy challenge.
Josh also could look at what a second chance in Cleveland did for Eric Mangini, who took the Browns' post in 2009 after a three-year stint coaching the New York Jets. A pair of 5-11 seasons ended a short run and left him out of the NFL until he accepted a position as an offensive consultant with the San Francisco 49ers this year.
We could know how it all plays out shortly.