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Old 12-10-2008, 11:20 AM   #265
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Posted by Mike Florio on December 10, 2008, 8:18 a.m.

ESPN’s John Clayton, who as far as we can tell has not broached this specific subject on, told a Cleveland radio station on Tuesday night that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher will most likely not become the next coach of the Browns.

In an appearance on WKNR, the Cleveland ESPN Radio affiliate, Clayton confirmed our past report that discussions have been occurred between the two sides, and he predicted that an offer would be made after the season.

“Has there been a direct conversation?” Clayton said. “Has there been an interview? No, but there are enough people talking to both sides. They will talk to him after the season. They will make him his offer. He’s probably going to turn it down.”

Our take has been that Cowher is using the Cleveland interest as a way to ensure that his name will remain at the top of the “A” list for the coming hiring cycle. Regardless of whether he’s doing it with his eyes on a potential opportunity elsewhere in 2009 or simply to ensure that his name remains in the conversation for coaching vacancies until he’s ready to return, we believe that Cowher wants to nurture the notion that, in any given year, he’s the gleaming brass ring on the NFL coaching carousel.

Clayton said that other possible arrivals are former Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer (who could serve as coach or Parcells-style executive or both) and current Patriots V.P. of player personnel Scott Pioli, who worked for the “Browns” from 1992-95.

As to Schottenheimer, a league source points out that hiring him could allow the franchise to avoid buying out the big-money contract of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who previously worked with Schottenheimer and would be more likely to remain on staff if Schottenheimer were running the show. After the team’s 10-6 performance in 2008 (which apparently was an “amorition“), Chudzinski received a deal that’s believed to be equivalent to head coach compensation in some cities in order to rebuff the interest of the Ravens in hiring him to replace Brian Billick.

The wild card in this situation is current G.M. Phil Savage. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen recently pointed out that owner Randy Lerner’s preference would be to keep Savage in the fold, but to strip him of final-say authority over the roster. Such a move would allow Lerner to avoid owing Savage a buyout of roughly $8.1 million — unless Savage quits, or is fired for cause due to his “go root for Buffalo” escapades and his role in the Kellen Winslow staph fiasco from earlier in the year.

Frankly, if Savage ends up sticking around, we think his wings would need to be dramatically clipped; as one league insider opined of Savage, “His skin’s like an onion and he loves the microphone. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
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