The Cleveland Browns head coaching search will drag on at least one more day, but they are reportedly down to two finalists for the job - and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is one of them.
ESPN's Adam Schefter broke the news first on Wednesday evening, reporting that the Browns have whittled down their list to two finalists - though he only mentioned Pettine by name, calling him "a favorite" for the job. Pettine will fly to Cleveland from the Senior Bowl on Thursday for a third (and potentially final) interview, according to NFL Network.
Meanwhile, as the Bills pressed the Browns for resolution so that they can begin the process of replacing their defensive coordinator (if necessary), Cleveland spent parts of Wednesday interviewing secondary candidates. Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was interviewed Wednesday morning, but he was immediately termed a long-shot candidate by Falcons beat reporters.
On Wednesday evening, news broke that the Browns had interviewed former Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano, of all people, for the opening - and then further developments surfaced soon thereafter, quickly squashing the idea that Schiano would be Cleveland's next coach. He, too, appears to be a longshot.
Overnight, a report surfaced (and was later verified) that the Browns had re-opened lines of communication with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who had withdrawn his name from consideration more than a week ago. His viability as a candidate has already been minimized, as well, making it three candidates that they talked to on Wednesday (Koetter, Schiano and McDaniels) that don't appear to have any real shot at the gig.
Oh, and the name of Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has not completely disappeared yet, either - even though, as of Wednesday night, the team had not even scheduled a second interview with Quinn, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
So, to recap: Pettine has looked like the front-runner for the job for parts of three full days now (and he is reportedly talking to potential assistant coaches in Mobile, by the way), and while the Browns continue to let him and the Bills twist in the wind, they're talking to a bunch of guys that don't appear serious candidates for the job and making little to no progress on courting the guy thought to be the early favorite in Quinn. We also don't have a clear idea of who might be the second finalist that Schefter alluded to; it's either one of these names already mentioned, or a candidate so obscure that he hasn't even flown onto the radar of these reporters' sources yet.
Thursday, however, might be the day that all of this comes to an end - and Pettine appears to be the one guy in this mess of a job search Cleveland is conducting that is on any sort of solid ground.