CLEVELAND (AP) — Amid mounting criticism of a coaching search dragging in its third week, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam sent a letter to Cleveland fans explaining the team's "methodical" actions.
Haslam fired coach Rob Chudzinski last month following his first season, forcing the Browns to look for their seventh full-time coach since 1999 and fourth in six years.
The owner said the team has spoken to a "number of outstanding candidates" and indicated the Browns will meet with assistant coaches currently in the playoffs.
"We have purposefully been very methodical in our approach," Haslam said in the letter released Wednesday by the team. "We believe it is very important to stay disciplined to this process and to interview all of the candidates on our list. We are strongly committed to finding the right person to coach the Cleveland Browns."
Cleveland has interviewed six known candidates and the team intends to meet with Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase when the Broncos' season ends. Gase was the first candidate contacted by the Browns after Chudzinski was let go. The 35-year-old Gase told the Browns and Minnesota Vikings he wanted to wait until after the season.
Although Gase appears to be the front-runner, there's no guarantee he'll be hired by the Browns — or if he even wants the job.
Gase's interview will likely take place soon after the Broncos are finished playing. That could be as soon as Sunday or as late as Feb. 3, if Denver advances to the Super Bowl.
Haslam said the Browns, who haven't been to the AFC playoffs since 2002, will remain patient.
"We are prepared to wait as long as necessary because this is a very important decision," said Haslam, Cleveland's owner since 2012. "Everyone in our organization is committed to finding the right leader for our team."
With the Vikings reportedly hiring Mike Zimmer, the Browns are the only NFL team still without a coach.
As Cleveland's search has lingered with some candidates going elsewhere, there's a growing perception the Browns' job is not appealing. Haslam, though, insists the Cleveland coaching spot is a "very attractive position."
"We have one of the youngest teams in the League, a roster that includes five Pro Bowlers," he said. "In addition, we have more salary-cap room than all but one NFL team. We also have three of the top 35 picks in the upcoming draft and five of the top 83 selections."
The Browns also interviewed Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who could get a second meeting when the Seahawks' season ends. New England coordinator Josh McDaniels and Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles removed their names from consideration from the Browns' opening. Ken Whisenhunt met with the Browns before he was hired by Tennessee, and Green Bay quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo interviewed with Cleveland but was hired Tuesday as the New York Giants' offensive coordinator.
Former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak met with Haslam and Browns CEO Joe Banner this week.
During the Browns' search, other prominent names have emerged as potential candidates, including Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. However, neither is believed to be on Cleveland's radar.