You can’t fault the Cleveland Browns for a lack of effort during their head-coaching search.
The long-time NFL cellar dwellers reportedly explored every avenue during the process, even holding a secret interview with current Wisconsin Badgers head coach Gary Andersen, via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
Although Andersen took the time to listen to what the Browns had to say, he decided to turn down the offer. The team eventually settled on Mike Pettine as its new head coach.
Wisconsin director of athletics Barry Alvarez and Andersen confirmed the reports in an official release on the school’s athletic website on Tuesday:
Statement from UW head coach Gary Andersen:
“Officials from the Cleveland Browns contacted me to talk about their head coaching vacancy. After our initial conversation, I decided not to pursue the position. I am committed to the University of Wisconsin and the student-athletes in our program. I love the city of Madison and am grateful for all the support from Badgers fans around the state and around the country. I look forward to the start of spring football in a couple weeks and turning the focus to preparing for 2014.”
Statement from UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez:
“I’m appreciative that Gary handled all of this the right way. He alerted me immediately that he had been contacted by the Browns and affirmed his commitment to the University of Wisconsin. When you have talented coaches on your roster, there will always be people who want to talk to them. I think that Gary is one of the top coaches in the country and am glad that he is leading our team.”
Andersen was coming off his first season in Madison, where he led the Badgers to a 9-4 record in 2013.
Dropping the final two games of the season, including the Capital One Bowl to South Carolina, was a tough pill to swallow. However, it’s hard not to ignore the positives from the season—Wisconsin finished ranked No. 8 in rushing offense and No. 7 in total defense.
With only nine out of 22 starters returning in 2014, Andersen’s coaching talents will truly be put to the test.
As for Cleveland, the mess could just be getting started. Especially since the team just overhauled its front office by firing CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi and naming Ray Farmer as the new GM, per The Associated Press (h/t ESPN).
Which brings us to a very interesting note: Farmer was not present during the hiring process of Pettine.
ESPN Radio's Mark Ennis said it best:
Looks like Andersen dodged a bullet with his decision.