Mularkey latest candidate to interview for Browns’ job

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Mike Mularkey had one chance to be an NFL head coach. He’s hoping the Cleveland Browns give him another.

Atlanta’s offensive coordinator who spent two seasons as Buffalo’s coach, interviewed with the Browns on Saturday, breaking away from the Falcons’ playoff prep to visit with Browns president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert.

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The Browns’ top executives went to Atlanta for the interview, the second one formally conducted by the Browns in their search to replace Eric Mangini.

On Friday, the Browns interviewed St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur in Cleveland. Next week, they intend to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and perhaps Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

It’s also possible the Browns will talk to Jon Gruden and John Fox — that is, if the Browns haven’t done so already. The team is keeping the search for Cleveland’s fifth coach since 1999 extremely low-key, choosing only to confirm interviews after they’ve taken place.

Mularkey previously canceled a meeting with the Denver Broncos, but kept his appointment with the Browns because they called him first. Unlike Shurmur, Mularkey has head coaching experience that could give him an advantage, and he’s also familiar with the AFC North.

The Bills went 14-18 in their two seasons (2004-05) under Mularkey. He led the Bills to a 9-7 record in his first season, Buffalo’s first winning one in five years. He resigned in 2006 amid philosophical differences with the club’s front office.

Before he was hired in Buffalo, Mularkey spent eight seasons with Pittsburgh on Bill Cowher’s staff. He was the Steelers’ offensive coordinator for three seasons, and under his watch, they were ranked third and fifth, respectively, in total offense in his first two years.

Mularkey helped refine quarterback Kordell Stewart and revived quarterback Tommy Maddox’s career. Maddox was voted the NFL Comeback Player of the Year when he played in Mularkey’s offense.

The Browns plan to interview Fewell on Tuesday or Wednesday. They’re also likely to meet with Mornhinweg, who wasn’t permitted to speak with the team this week because the Eagles are in a wild-card game.

Mornhinweg is close to Holmgren, who coached him in high school and later had him on his staff. He also runs the type of offense Holmgren would like to bring to Cleveland, a much more wide-open passing game than the Browns utiliized with Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

Mornhinweg went 5-27 as coach of the Detroit Lions (2001-02).

Mangini was fired by Holmgren on Monday, one day after a 41-9 home loss to Pittsburgh dropped him to 5-11 for the second consecutive season.

On Monday, Holmgren is scheduled to meet with Cleveland’s assistant coaches. After firing Mangini, he gave the remainder of the week off, allowing them to make contacts and set up interviews elsewhere. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan interviewed for Carolina’s head coach opening.