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Monday, December 31, 2012
Browns targeting 'top people' in search

By Jamison Hensley

It was supposed to be a news conference announcing the firing of coach Pat Shurmur. It ended up being a sales pitch for the new head coach.

The lasting impression left by owner Jimmy Haslam and chief executive officer Joe Banner is that they are going after the top candidates available -- presumably Oregon's Chip Kelly and Penn State's Bill O'Brien -- and they expect to land one. The Browns aren't concerned that there will be major competition for head coaches considering the growing number of teams that have already fired theirs Monday (the Eagles, Bears, Chiefs and Bills so far).

"We don't believe there is any job in the league that's going to be available that can tell a better story about why you want to come to this particular team [and] this particular city and take a job," Banner said. "We go into this extremely confident that we can go after the top people available, at least the top people in our opinion and that we have a very good chance of being successful in convincing them that this is the right situation. Most of these top coaches are focused on finding a place where they think they can win. We think we can make a very good case of why this is the best opportunity in the league right now."

The Browns will hire a head coach first and then decide on the general manager/player personnel director. Haslam and Banner wouldn't comment on any prospective candidates. Haslam said the process to hire a coach could take a week or a month.

When Haslam was asked what the top attribute is he wants in a coach, he said two words: strong leadership.

"We feel very good about this opportunity here," said Haslam, who bought the Browns in August. "We think we have a good young team in place. As you have all taught me, this is a great football town. We think the person that can come in here and make the Cleveland Browns a winner will be recognized as one of the great coaches of all time and will be beloved in this area. So, I think we're confident that this is a good situation. We're not going to worry about who else is out there looking for a coach. We have our people in mind and we're going to work hard to bring the right person to Cleveland."

Haslam indicated that the decision not to retain Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert occurred over the past couple of weeks. Banner said the reason they were fired was the need for dynamic leadership and a fresh start.

"Time will tell if it's the right decision," Banner said.