Cleveland Browns: Gus Malzahn

Our most recent poll on who you’d like to see the Browns hire as head coach drew twice as many voters as any of our previous polls.

More than 4,100 voted, and the statement made was clear and strong: The people want Jim Tressel.

Even if they’re not going to get him.

Fifty percent of the vote went to Tressel even though the Browns have shown no interest in talking to the former Ohio State coach (unless they’re doing it secretly).

For one person to garner 50 percent of the vote in a five-person vote is significant. It means Tressel had as many votes as the other four combined.

Methinks the fans are serious about this.

If it were an electoral college, Tressel would have run away with the vote: Only six states did not vote for him: Maine, Vermont, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Alaska (?). Yes, the great state of Alaska, with its majestic mountains and gnarly grizzlies, cast its two votes for the man with the vest from the great state of Ohio, Jim Tressel.

What’s equally as interesting is that none of the other four names listed garnered more than 15 percent of the vote.

Adam Gase, whom the Browns have waited patiently to interview, drew 15 percent, but didn’t even win in Colorado, where he coaches a guy named Manning.

Auburn’s Gus Malzahn received 14 percent, former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak 14 percent and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn just seven percent.

The poll was posted before Mike Pettine (Bills DC) and Rich Bisaccia (Cowboys special teams) interviewed, but it doesn’t seem those two names would have chipped away at Tressel’s 50 percent.

It’s clear the man they call “the Vest” remains popular, liked and respected in the state of Ohio.
Something should become clearer about the Cleveland Browns' coaching search today.

Whether that leads to a coach being hired in the short term is a complete unknown, though. Either Denver or San Diego will lose in the playoffs today when they play each other. That means Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt or Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase can be hired by another team.

Whether that team is the Browns remains to be seen. Running down the candidates:

Ken Whisenhunt -- Clearly the leader in the clubhouse when résumé and fan opinion are taken into account. But he also is considered the runaway favorite to be hired in Detroit, where a talented team, including a quarterback, is in place. Many in the league feel once San Diego loses it's merely a matter of time for Whisenhunt to be hired by the Lions.

Adam Gase -- At 35 he's the "it" candidate. But he's also been a coordinator for one year, and that was with Peyton Manning. Former Vice President Richard Cheney would probably be a good coordinator with Manning at quarterback. Gase has delayed interviews until after the playoffs, which is admirable. But a lot of word is leaking that Gase will think twice about interviewing with the Browns -- or anyone for that matter -- because he is in a good spot, and the fact his name is out now will help him gain a job in the future.

Ben McAdoo -- The Green Bay Packers' quarterbacks coach has the benefit of Aaron Rodgers. The "Cheney Rule" above applies to Rodgers. McAdoo's name came from nowhere, much like Andy Reid's did in 1999 in Philadelphia. McAdoo was a virtual unknown when the Browns decided to interview him, and he remains that. It's interesting that the Browns would turn to a young up-and-coming coach after firing a guy they described the same way a year ago. Usually teams go the opposite.

Todd Bowles -- Arizona's defensive coordinator interviewed early in the process and his name has hardly been mentioned since.

Dan Quinn -- Seattle's defensive coordinator reportedly is a popular option, but he's now preparing for the NFC Championship Game and the Browns have to wait on him until the Seahawks are out of the playoffs.

Gus Malzahn -- His name continues to flit about, even though he's happy at Auburn and he agreed to a contract extension in early December.

By the wayside -- James Franklin was hired by Penn State and Josh McDaniels pulled his name from consideration.

At least the Browns, and their fans, will know something tonight. It may not take them any closer to hiring a coach, but they'll know something.
The Cleveland Browns reportedly have interest in talking to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who coached in the national championship game Monday night. Florida State defeated the Tigers 34-31.

But would they be able to talk to him, much less hire him?

Nobody knows. And the Browns have not admitted they are even interested in Malzahn.

But ... on Dec. 7, Auburn and Malzahn agreed to a six-year contract extension that increased his pay to $3.85 million, with a and $250,000 increase each year after.

Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said that Auburn wants Malzahn “to be at Auburn for a long time.”

The extension reportedly includes a buyout, though how much is unknown.

Contracts have become hazy things in college sports; a contract sometimes is binding until a guy wants out.

But according to this story on (based in Birmingham), Malzahn was the impetus to getting the deal done.

He walked into Jacobs office late in the evening the Thursday before the SEC Championship Game and simply said: “Let’s get this done.”

Malzahn is in his first season at Auburn as a head coach after a successful season at Arkansas State.

He may well listen to the Browns, but it sure seems that a guy who negotiated his own extension and did it Thursday night after practice and a TV show believes he is in the right place.
Owner Jimmy Haslam talked about hiring a proven winner to replace Rob Chudzinski, so it was odd when the first names that surfaced in the Cleveland Browns' coaching search were coordinators.

Then on Sunday,'s Jason La Canfora reported that the Browns were interested in two college coaches: Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt's James Franklin. These names could fall under the category Haslam described.

[+] EnlargeGus Malzahn
AP Photo/Dave MartinThe Browns are reportedly interested in Gus Malzahn, who led Auburn to the BCS title game in his first season as head coach.
Malzahn's name is interesting. He's this year's Chip Kelly, the guy the Browns did not get a year ago. That failure stung, especially after Kelly initially indicated he'd return to Oregon but then joined the Eagles and led them to the playoffs. The timing isn't good for Malzahn, who is preparing his Auburn team to play Florida State in the national title game. But if Malzahn's goal is to be in the NFL, the timing won't matter.

Malzahn was Cam Newton's offensive coordinator when the Tigers won the national title. He spent a year as head coach at Arkansas State before returning to be the head coach at Auburn this season. Like Kelly, he has been tied to the read-option offense.

Franklin is a former Packers assistant who had success in one of the toughest places in the SEC to have success, Vanderbilt. He has also been rumored to be on the list of other NFL teams with openings, and his name has been floated in relation to Penn State, which needs a coach after Bill O'Brien left for the Houston Texans.

The college names are interesting, because it's tough for NFL coordinators to have proven records of winning. College head coaches can.

While most in the league shook their head at the firing of Chudzinski after one season, almost as many are interested to see who is hired. In the structure the Browns have, Banner is in charge of football and personnel. A coach would have to accept that structure.

Other names that have surfaced include:

New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. At first glance McDaniels would seem to be a front-runner. He's from Northeast Ohio and went to college at John Carroll in suburban Cleveland. But sources have said Banner must be convinced, and that could be a challenge. McDaniels would seem to want control over personnel the way Belichick has it in New England. Given the Browns structure, that demand might be tough to meet.

Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Good guy, respected coach. He worked for the Browns from 2001 to 2004 as defensive backs coach before moving on to the Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles and Cardinals, where he was Bruce Arians' choice to coach the defense. It's tough to find anyone who will say much negative about Bowles. He also would fill the league's Rooney Rule mandate.

Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He will also interview with the Vikings. Under Quinn this season, Seattle led the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, passing yards allowed and interceptions. He spent two years as the Florida Gators' coordinator, and has been an assistant with several NFL teams.

Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Every year there's a young coordinator who garners attention. It appears this year it's Gase, who had the benefit of working with Peyton Manning. That sure helps a coach look good, but it also helps a coach gain knowledge. Don't discount the recommendation Manning may have given on behalf of Gase; Manning and Haslam are friends. Gase, though, could hurt his chances by deciding not to interview until the Broncos' postseason run is over. It's an admirable stance, but the Browns may not wait.