The Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos got their rebuilding under way. The Oakland Raiders still haven't found their man.
Pat Shurmur, who quickly turned rookie quarterback Sam Bradford into a rising NFL star, is about to learn that the Browns are no easy fix. In Denver, John Fox was picked over four other candidates to replace Josh McDaniels, who was fired Dec. 6 amid the Broncos' worst slide in four decades and the embarrassing Spygate II videotaping scandal.
The lost season led to a restructuring of the front office and the return of Hall of Famer John Elway as chief football executive. On Thursday, Elway hired Fox, the 55-year-old former Carolina Panthers coach, to a four-year contract.
"For what this building needed, John Fox was the perfect fit for us," Elway said outside team headquarters before zipping off in his Bentley on Thursday evening.
"The one thing I saw in John he had great football wisdom," Elway said. "And I think that comes with the experience that he has. But not only does he have it on the defensive side, but overall his football wisdom is what won us over."
Elway broke the news of Fox's hiring on Twitter in keeping with the organization's new emphasis on transparency as it tries to reconnect with a disenchanted fan base.
The Browns hired Shurmur, St. Louis' offensive coordinator the past two years, and ended a search for their fifth coach since 1999 that began when team president Mike Holmgren fired Eric Mangini on Jan. 3 after his second straight 11-loss season.
Shurmur isn't a big-name hire, and his addition won't trigger a celebration by Browns fans or a rush of season-ticket requests.
But to Holmgren, the 45-year-old's last name means success.
Shurmur's late uncle, Fritz, was Holmgren's defensive coordinator in Green Bay when the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996. And in hiring a candidate with no head coaching experience, Holmgren is following the same path he took in getting to the top of his profession.
Like Shurmur, Holmgren was a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator before getting the Packers job in 1992. When Shurmur, who was the first of three known candidates to interview, sat across the desk from Holmgren, Cleveland's top football executive may well have seen a younger version of himself.
"Pat is a bright, young man who grew up in football and around the coaching profession," Holmgren said. "I came away from our interview very impressed with him as a person, his extensive knowledge of the game and his track record of success as an assistant coach.
"Most importantly, I feel as though he possesses the necessary qualities which make him the right man to lead our football team."
The Browns have a been a mess for far too long. In a league where quick turnarounds are common, they've been an exception to the rule. Cleveland has made the AFC playoffs just once and had nine double-digit loss seasons in 13 years. Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel and Mangini each failed in trying to build a consistent winner in Cleveland's expansion era.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have the only head coaching vacancy left in the NFL.
Six of the seven head coaching spots have been filled this offseason. The Raiders announced last week they were not picking up a $5 million, two-year option to retain Tom Cable, who went 17-27 in two-plus seasons. The Raiders were 8-8 in 2010, their best record since 2002.
"The interview process is ongoing," senior executive John Herrera said Thursday. "We have been doing our due diligence with our current assistant coaches. That process has been ongoing all week."
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is considered a favorite to get the head coaching job. He is under contract as an assistant already for next season.
Earlier this season, the Vikings gave the full-time job to interim coach Leslie Frazier and the Cowboys did the same with Jason Garrett. The Panthers hired San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera on Tuesday, and the San Francisco 49ers hired Stanford's Jim Harbaugh last week.