- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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A big mistake for new owners is to make a splash with their first head coaching hire. They want to generate excitement for their fan base.
The Cleveland Browns, though, don't need flash in their next head coach. They need experience.
That was the ultimate downfall for Pat Shurmur. He wasn't a head coach at any level before taking the top job in Cleveland. Others have been able to succeed without being a head coach previously -- namely Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh -- but they took over veteran teams.
Pairing an inexperienced head coach with an inexperienced team resulted in the ineptness that surfaced too often over the past two seasons. I don't really need to rehash the debacles of third-and-1 and the inability to get the play calls to the quarterback in time.
“This decision was not an easy one because of my relationship with Tom [Heckert, general manager] and Pat and the fact that they are both quality people,” Browns chief executive officer Joe Banner said. “Ultimately our objective is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do. On the field, our only goal is trying to win championships."
That's why the priority is finding the coach who will get this young team headed in the right direction and not one who can just generate ticket sales. The Browns are closer to turning things around than their 5-11 record indicates. Five of those losses were by seven points or fewer. Three losses came after the Browns had the lead in the fourth quarter.
This is why the Browns' head coaching position is much more attractive now than when Shurmur was hired two years ago. At this point, the two hot candidates are Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien. The Browns will likely have to compete with the Philadelphia Eagles, who fired Andy Reid, for Kelly and O'Brien. Kelly has been the head coach of Oregon since 2009, and O'Brien finished his first season as a head coach this year after spending one season as the offensive coordinator with the Patriots.
Other candidates who could potentially be on the Browns' radar are: Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
Of those, McDaniels, Arians, Koetter and Gruden had prior head-coaching experience at some level.