Pat Shurmur has NFL coaching pedigree, experience with young quarterbacks and ties to Cleveland's front office.
No wonder the Browns are considering him to be their coach.
Shurmur, who just finished his second season as St. Louis' offensive coordinator, interviewed for Cleveland's top job on Friday, the first candidate known to have formally visited with Browns president Mike Holmgren. Shurmur spent several hours at the team's offices in Berea, Ohio, meeting with Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert before leaving at around 2 p.m.
The Browns did not provide any details of Shurmur's stay, and the team is only confirming the interviews after they've taken place.
Holmgren is looking for a new coach — Cleveland's fifth since 1999 — after firing Eric Mangini, who went just 10-22 in two seasons. Mangini's conservative, run-oriented offense clashed with Holmgren's preference for the more wide open West Coast system he used as a coach, and the one Shurmur ran with the Rams.
On Saturday, the Browns will interview Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, Buffalo's former coach. Mularkey is taking a break from playoff preparations to meet with Cleveland's top executives, who are flying to Atlanta. Mularkey canceled a previously scheduled interview with Denver.
Shurmur's candidacy may be strengthened by the job he did with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the top overall draft pick. Bradford guided the Rams to a 7-9 record this season despite limited offensive weapons. The Browns would like to further develop Colt McCoy, who went 2-6 as a starter after being thrust into a No. 1 role in his first season because of injuries. Holmgren said McCoy's growth will be a factor when he selects a coach.
McCoy and Bradford both played in the Big 12, at Texas and Oklahoma, respectively.
Before joining the Rams, Shurmur spent seven seasons coaching Philadelphia's quarterbacks. Donovan McNabb made three Pro Bowls with Shurmur as his position coach.
Shurmur has deeper connections with the Browns. His late uncle, Fritz Shurmur, was a defensive coordinator under Holmgren in Green Bay. Shurmur also worked in Philadelphia with Heckert as well as Eagles coach Andy Reid, a close friend of Holmgren's.
Beyond that, Shurmur and Holmgren share the same agent, Bob LaMonte, who also represents potential candidates Jon Gruden and John Fox. The Browns have been granted permission to speak with New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, a minority candidate whose interview will fulfill the Rooney Rule requirement. Fewell, who served as an interim coach with the Bills, is expected to visit the Browns early next week.
Gruden has not indicated if he intends to get back into coaching. The ESPN analyst will be in Arizona this weekend, preparing for Monday night's BCS title game between Auburn and Oregon. Gruden grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, rooting for the Browns.
Holmgren, as the offensive coordinator, hired Gruden for his first pro coaching job, an entry level position with San Francisco.
Fox's contract was not renewed after nine seasons in Carolina. He went 73-71 and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl in 2003.
Holmgren has not ruled himself out of coaching the Browns. Earlier this week, he said he was not part of Cleveland's search "for now."
On Monday, Holmgren is scheduled to meet with Cleveland's assistants, many of whom are unlikely to return next season. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is a candidate for the Carolina opening.