NFL notebook

Broncos and Browns name new coaches

John Fox’s experience made him Denver’s choice. John Fox’s experience made him Denver’s choice.
Associated Press / January 14, 2011

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The Broncos and Browns went different routes to find head coaches whom they hope will lead their teams back from disappointing seasons.

Denver picked former Carolina coach John Fox yesterday over four candidates for its top job. Fox, whose contract wasn’t renewed following his ninth season with the Panthers, interviewed with new chief football executive John Elway Wednesday.

“For what this building needed, John Fox was the perfect fit for us,’’ Elway said outside team headquarters in Englewood, Colo. “The one thing I saw in John, he had great football wisdom. And I think that comes with the experience that he has.’’

The 55-year-old Fox went 78-74, including playoffs, with the Panthers, who were an NFL-worst 2-14 in 2010. That wasn’t much worse than the Broncos, who are coming off a franchise-worst 4-12 season.

“The Broncos have a culture of winning, and I am excited to continue that legacy. I can’t wait to get to work,’’ Fox said in a statement.

Fox met with some members of the holdover staff after agreeing to take over the Broncos, but no decisions were immediately made on whether any of them would stay in Denver.

Browns president Mike Holmgren picked someone with no head coaching experience. Pat Shurmur, the Rams’ offensive coordinator the last two seasons, was the first of three known candidates to be interviewed.

“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 in this league,’’ Holmgren said.

Shurmur’s hiring ended the Browns’ search for their fifth coach since 1999. Holmgren fired Eric Mangini Jan. 3 after his second straight 11-loss season. Terms of Shurmur’s deal were not immediately available, but it was expected to be a four-year package.

Before joining the Rams, Shurmur, 45, spent 10 seasons as an offensive position coach with the Eagles. He spent eight years working with Browns general manager Tom Heckert in Philadelphia. Shurmur’s late uncle, Fritz, was Holmgren’s defensive coordinator in Green Bay when the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996.

“I am looking forward to this challenge and can’t wait to get started in helping to build the Browns back to one of the elite teams in the NFL,’’ said Shurmur.

One to go The Raiders have the only head coaching vacancy left in the NFL, and senior executive John Herrera said the interview process “is ongoing.’’ Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is considered a favorite to get the top job. He is under contract as an assistant for next season. With Jackson calling the plays, Oakland more than doubled its scoring output from 2009. The contracts of many other assistants, including defensive coordinator John Marshall, expire Tuesday . . . Former University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt met with friend and former colleague Chan Gailey to see if the Bills coach might have a job for him. When Wannstedt became coach of the Dolphins in 2000, he hired Gailey as his offensive coordinator. Forced to resign by Pitt last month, Wannstedt has an extensive defensive background and would be a good fit for a Bills defense that had difficulty stopping the run and allowed 30 or more points nine times. Despite Buffalo’s defensive struggles, coordinator George Edwards is expected to keep his job after completing his first season. The Bills currently have one opening, inside linebackers coach . . . According to the Star-Tribune, former Vikings coach Brad Childress will interview for the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator vacancy tomorrow.

Work to be done The NFL and its players’ union acknowledged they have not held a large-group negotiating session since November — and there are no formal meetings scheduled to work toward a new collective bargaining agreement. Only seven weeks remain until the CBA is set to expire, and while the private talks are seemingly at a standstill, the public rhetoric is not.

“The negotiations are not proceeding very vigorously. No one’s booking dates right now,’’ Bob Batterman, an outside lawyer for the league, said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

“You need a serious negotiating partner to have a negotiation,’’ added Batterman, a lawyer for the NHL when it lost its entire 2004-05 season to a lockout. “And what we’ve been getting back in terms of responses are not conducive to making a deal.’’

Union spokesman George Atallah referred to the NFL’s “desperate attempt to point the finger back at us.’’ The union long has said it believes the owners have been preparing for a lockout.

“Players want to play. So we’re not doing anything until we’re locked out by the owners,’’ Atallah said.

Even with the March 4 expiration deadline approaching, and no formal bargaining scheduled, it’s possible an agreement could be reached.

“There is enough time remaining. We’ve got about 50 days,’’ Batterman said. “There is no question that a deal could be done — which is a different question than whether a deal will be done.’’

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