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Rams OC Shurmur considered front-runner to coach Browns

The Cleveland Browns are moving toward a head-coaching hire, according to a league source, and a decision could be made by Thursday.

All indications are that St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the first candidate to interview for the job, is the front-runner. Shurmur's uncle, the late Fritz Shurmur, was the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator under current Browns president Mike Holmgren.

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell are the only other candidates known to have interviewed with the Browns.

Holmgren would prefer to hire a more offensive-minded coach than Eric Mangini, whose run-heavy philosophy and questionable in-game decisions led to his firing after two 5-11 seasons.

Fewell, who served as the Buffalo Bills' interim coach in 2009, interviewed Tuesday with the Browns. According to The Associated Press, it's not known if the team has scheduled any more interviews or follow-ups.

The Browns, who have kept their pursuit of a new coach cloaked in secrecy, were expected to speak with Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg because of his personal and professional connections with Holmgren. That meeting hasn't been set up.

Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden appears to be out of the Browns' mix.

Following Monday night's BCS national championship game, Gruden said on a radio broadcast that he will not coach in 2011. Gruden grew up in Ohio rooting for the Browns, and it was assumed that he would be contacted by Holmgren, who gave the former coach his NFL start as an assistant for the San Francisco 49ers.

Gruden was asked by announcer Mike Tirico if he would get back into coaching.

"No," Gruden said. "I'll be back with you."

On Monday, a network spokesman told The AP that Gruden "remains committed to ESPN and to Monday Night Football."

Former Carolina Panthers coach John Fox still might be on Holmgren's list, according to The AP, but he'll interview Wednesday with the Denver Broncos.

The only definitive coaching news related to the Browns was that wide receivers coach George McDonald has left Cleveland for the same position at the University of Miami. Holmgren hasn't yet met with the rest of Mangini's staff still under contract.

Fewell, 48, came to Cleveland on Tuesday, hoping to convince Holmgren that he's the best candidate to take over a franchise that has posted eight double-digit-loss seasons and one playoff appearance since 1999. Fewell also interviewed with the Broncos, who haven't made a hire, and the Carolina Panthers, who picked San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Riveraas their head coach.

Fewell is popular with Giants players, who appreciate how he allows them to think independently on the field. He urged them to take advantage of any opportunities, and New York led the league with 39 takeaways this season.

Fewell's visit means the Browns have complied with the NFL's Rooney Rule requirement that they interview at least one minority candidate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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