CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Browns will go on offense to start their coaching search.
Looking to replace defensive-minded Eric Mangini, the team plans to interview Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Mularkey confirmed he will speak with the Browns and Denver Broncos "later this week" about their coaching vacancies. The Rams said Tuesday night that they've granted the Browns permission to speak with Shurmur.
The Broncos announced on their Twitter account they will interview Mularkey on Friday in Atlanta. The Falcons have a bye this weekend in the NFC playoffs, and will host a divisional game on Jan. 15. The Browns are not confirming any interviews until they are completed.
On Monday, Browns president Mike Holmgren fired Mangini following the coach's second straight 5-11 season, which ended with a four-game losing streak.
Holmgren promised no limitations in his search, and said his only goal is "to get it right" since the Browns will be on their fifth coach since 1999 — turnover that perhaps best explains eight double digit-loss seasons in the club's expansion era.
The Browns did not interview anyone Tuesday, and they have nothing currently scheduled for Wednesday.
Holmgren is casting a wide net in his search. He is expected to interview former Carolina coach John Fox, former Tampa Bay coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
Per league rules, the Browns are not permitted to talk to Mornhinweg, the former Detroit coach who played for and coached under Holmgren, until after Sunday's wild-card game against Green Bay.
Mularkey, 49, has head-coaching experience. He spent two seasons in Buffalo, going 14-18 in 2004-05 before resigning in 2006. This season, his offense, led by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, is ranked 15th in passing and 16th overall.
Shurmur, 45, just finished his second season running the Rams' offense, a West Coast-style system favored by Holmgren that sometimes became too conservative for St. Louis fans. The Rams gained just 184 yards on Sunday night, when they were beaten by Seattle for the NFC West title.
Shurmur was instrumental in developing rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, and the Browns want their next coach to do the same with their rookie, Colt McCoy, who went 2-6 as a starter after being thrust into the job due to injuries. Holmgren said McCoy's continued growth will be a priority when he selects his next coach.
"It's important," he said. "If Colt is the guy and you see the potential there, who the head coach is, who the offensive coordinator is, who his position coach is they're important for any team. But if, all of a sudden, you have the quarterback you think can be the quarterback, a young man who can be the quarterback for the next 10-15 years, hopefully it becomes even more important. Absolutely that is going to be one of the considerations in the search."
Shurmur's late uncle, Fritz, worked as a defensive coordinator under Holmgren. Also, Shurmur and Holmgren share the same agent, Bob LaMonte.
Shurmur is also very familiar with Browns general manager Tom Heckert. They worked together in Philadelphia, where Shurmur was quarterbacks coach for seven seasons.
One of Holmgren's main objectives is to upgrade a Cleveland offense that never found an identity. Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll preferred a more conservative running attack to the pass-heavy offense Holmgren learned under Bill Walsh and utilized with the Packers and Seahawks.
Holmgren said an offensive-minded coach wasn't a necessity, but based on his past, it's likely the direction he wants to take.
"We lost a lot of close games, a lot of low-scoring, close games, so I would like to put a little bit more pizazz (in the offense), but that's not necessarily really the head coach," he said. "That's the staff, that's the players we give him and all of those things. I'm just not going to paint myself into a corner on who I want and who I look for on this list."