CLEVELAND, Ohio — Josh McDaniels loved Baker Mayfield coming out of Oklahoma in 2018, and would be eager to work with him in Cleveland, a league source told cleveland.com.
Furthermore, McDaniels would not take the Browns job if John Dorsey were GM, largely because he knows how vital the coach-GM relationship is, and will likely want to work with his own guy.
When Dorsey was Browns GM last year, McDaniels wasn’t interviewed, possibly because the Patriots coordinator had just spurned one of his best friends in the business, Colts GM Chris Ballard, the year before for the Colts head coach job. McDaniels, 43, agreed to take the job after the 2017 season and then backed out in February when he received clarity about his role with the Patriots from owner Bob Kraft and coach Bill Belichick.
Now, however, he’s apparently ready to strike out on his own again, and one source told cleveland.com “it would be hard for him to say no” to his hometown Browns.
A Canton, Ohio, native, McDaniels grew up in Northeast Ohio and played receiver at John Carroll University. He’s the son of Thom McDaniels, one of the most of the respected high school football coaches in the country and a finalist for NFL High School Coach of the Year award in 2012.
With Dorsey ushered out on Tuesday after he refused to take a reduced role from Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, it paved the way for McDaniels to bring in one of his own trusted personnel executives in New England’s Nick Caserio or David Ziegler — both teammates of his at John Carroll — or former Browns and Patriots exec and Chiefs GM Scott Pioli.
If the Browns offer Caserio — coveted by Houston in the offseason — or give Ziegler final say over roster moves, the Patriots would have to grant permission for the interviews.
But the Browns will have stiff competition for McDaniels, the former Broncos head coach. The Panthers and Giants have also submitted requests to interview him, and the Patriots must grant permission.
The Browns job would be intriguing to McDaniels, 43, for a number of reasons, including the chance to work with Mayfield, a source said. In 2018, the Patriots tried for weeks to set up a private draft meeting with Mayfield, but he declined because they didn’t have a high enough pick. They did, however, have No. 23 and No. 31 in the first round, and ultimately convinced Mayfield that they might consider trading up to get him.
McDaniels flew to Austin, Texas, to meet with Mayfield three days before the draft, and came away very impressed, the source said. He found Mayfield to have a very high football acumen along with his physical attributes, and the two immediately hit it off. Mayfield’s 6-foot height didn’t bother him, and he gave the Patriots a glowing scouting report on him.
They were prepared to trade up for him, but it all went for naught when the Browns took him No. 1 overall.
The longtime Patriots coordinator, who’s won six Super Bowl rings with Tom Brady, would have to get Mayfield back on track after he tumbled to second-last in the NFL this season with a 78.8 rating, and threw the second-most interceptions in the NFL with 21.
But based on his experience and the rapport the two developed during that private meeting, he’d undoubtedly be up for the challenge.
The other jobs have their pluses, but having a say in who runs the football side would be attractive to McDaniels, who’s been very choosy about his second head-coaching job. In his two seasons as Broncos head coach in 2009 and 2010, he went going 8-8 his first year after a 6-0 start, and was fired after a 3-9 start in 2010.
Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy will be the Browns’ first interview today, and they’ll head to Santa Clara, Calif., this weekend to interview 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. They can also interview Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman this week because, like Saleh, he’s on a playoff bye.
Others the Browns have requested permission to interview are Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that that the Browns are expected to interview 49ers offensive assistants Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel when they’re in Santa Clara this weekend, but nothing had been scheduled as of Wednesday afternoon.
The 2019 season was McDaniels’ 16th with the Patriots overall and his 11th as the team’s offensive coordinator. In that span, McDaniels has guided the offense to eight top-10 rankings, including the NFL’s No. 1-ranked offense in 2007, 2012 and 2017.
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