- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It doesn’t really matter much whether the Cleveland Browns decided to move on in their coaching search before or after Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase told the Browns on Tuesday that he no longer wanted to interview for the job.
That’s just the way coaching searches go. People pull their names out, teams move on from candidates, and everybody wants to look as though he made the call, not the other guy. It’s usually all semantics.
The real deal, the bottom line is that Gase is smart enough to call plays for the highest-scoring offense in the league’s history, he’s young, and he has Peyton Manning at quarterback. Oh, and the Broncos are in the Super Bowl.
The Browns are hiring a head coach because they fired the last one after just one season. They have uncertainty at quarterback, and the draft class has more question marks at the position than answers.
For many inside the Broncos’ Dove Valley complex, it’s a no-brainer. It’s also an indication that virtually everyone inside the team’s walls believes that Manning will be back for 2014.
Manning will have a medical exam in the weeks after the Super Bowl, the same kind of exam he had after the 2013 season. If doctors give Manning the thumbs-up, the Broncos believe that Manning, win or lose on Feb. 2, will be back for the 2014 season and the Broncos will remain in the Super Bowl conversation with left tackle Ryan Clady back in the lineup and the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas still catching passes.
“I still think he's young and he's playing well," Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway said of Manning last week. “That's going to come down to Peyton. It's going to come down to what he wants to do. Having been a football player before, when you leave this game, you want to leave it on your last leg, and try not to leave anything on the table. So, anybody that's a competitor, that's kind of the way they want to leave the game. I was just fortunate to be able to be on two great football teams and be able to win world championships when my last leg broke.”
After the season Manning just had, there isn’t anyone with the Broncos, or anywhere else in the league, who believes Manning is on his last leg. When asked whether he believed Manning was still enjoying the game, Elway said, “I'm sure he is still enjoying it, and he's on a good football team, which also, late in your career, is crucial."
Manning just threw for a single-season-record 5,477 yards and a single-season-record 55 touchdown passes. He likes working with Gase as well as Gase’s aggressiveness, work ethic and vision with the playbook. He's told some in and around the league he believes Gase is a "superstar," and Elway said he wished he could have played with Gase calling plays for him.
Gase, having worked his way up the ladder in the NFL with rolled-up sleeves, knows what he’s got, knows the situation he’s in. And in a business where it's hard to find at times, Gase has loyalty to Manning and his job. Elway called Gase’s decision to tell the Browns and Vikings he did not want to interview until the Broncos’ season was done “studly."
The Broncos don’t have the salary-cap issues that so many of the league’s elite find themselves with when things go well. Elway is focused on the long-term plan enough to go to the Senior Bowl practices this week.
So, no matter how badly the 35-year-old Gase wants to be a head coach in the league, and a person in his position certainly would want to try, it isn’t urgent for him to leave. There is no legitimate deadline other than those who tell all the 30-somethings in the league to strike while the iron is hot. Often young coaches find it wasn't that good of an iron, or they weren't really ready to hold it.
Not with a Super Bowl on the docket and a pile of birthdays to enjoy before he can he even see middle age.
So, maybe the Browns moved on, maybe Gase moved on -- it will always depend on whom you ask. In a year when Gase has made plenty of good calls, this is another one. For everybody.
2dEric D. Williams