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The search is over

Browns finally find their coach in Jaguars' Palmer

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Posted: Thursday January 21, 1999 08:59 PM

  The Browns say they were looking for a teacher and found one in Chris Palmer AP

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns finally ended their scrambled search for a head coach Thursday, hiring Chris Palmer to lead the return of the Browns to the NFL.

Palmer, the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator the past two seasons, was introduced by the Browns at a news conference at the team's headquarters in Berea.

The deal is a "multi-year contract" -- reportedly five years -- but the details are still being worked out, Palmer said.

"There's a smile on our faces and I have to tell you there's a smile in our hearts," Browns president Carmen Policy said. "We were searching for a teacher and we found a teacher."

Palmer, 49, is the ninth full-time head coach of the Browns, who are returning to the NFL next season as an expansion team following a three-year hiatus that began when former owner Art Modell took the old team to Baltimore.

"The Cleveland Browns have always been my first choice," Palmer said at the news conference, attended by many former Browns players.

The new coach said he had already been on the phone trying to line up assistants.

Palmer's hiring ends a coaching search Browns president Carmen Policy said was more time-consuming than he anticipated. It finally gives Cleveland a chance to focus on other things, including the NFL expansion draft less than three weeks away.

A virtual unknown to Policy and Browns fans just a week ago, Palmer will now lead the new Browns into a new era.

He has just seven months to get his team ready for the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 9 in Canton, Ohio, and his every decision -- especially with the No. 1 pick in April's college draft -- is sure to be scrutinized in this football-crazy town.

While Cleveland initially seemed interested in bigger name coaches, Palmer impressed Browns executives with his knowledge of Cleveland's expansion situation and his background tutoring quarterbacks.

Policy had hoped to hire Minnesota offensive coordinator Brian Billick, but dropped him as a candidate Monday when Billick decided to follow through on a job interview with the Baltimore Ravens.

Billick signed a six-year, $9 million contract with the Ravens on Tuesday, leaving the Browns with three other coaches they had interviewed: Palmer, Atlanta offensive line coach Art Shell and Oakland defensive coordinator Willie Shaw.

Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak had removed himself from consideration with the Browns on Monday when he said he would stay with the Broncos beyond the Super Bowl.

Other coaches who appealed to the Browns didn't even wind up coming to Cleveland for interviews. Mike Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle and Steve Mariucci signed a contract extension to stay in San Francisco, where he was hired by Policy.

Policy had said that no coach would be hired until that individual had met with Cleveland owner Al Lerner. Lerner was out of town when Palmer interviewed with the Browns last week.

But Palmer got a chance to spend a good deal of time with Lerner on Wednesday.

Palmer met with Lerner at the billionaire banker's offices in Beachwood for 10 hours Wednesday, along with Policy and Browns director of football operations Dwight Clark. The group then went out to dinner at a local restaurant.

Palmer said all the right things to Policy in his first interview. He shocked the Browns president with both his preparedness and a bubbly personality that Policy didn't pick up on from seeing Palmer on TV.

Palmer's background working with young quarterbacks clearly impressed Cleveland's front office, which may take Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch with its No. 1 draft pick.

While an assistant in New England, Palmer was involved in the decision to draft Drew Bledsoe over Rick Mirer, and later helped mold Bledsoe into one of the elite QBs in the league.

During his first interview, Palmer scored big points with Policy by insisting he wanted to be involved in coaching the team's quarterbacks.

Palmer's only previous head coaching experience was at the college level, but he has worked for the past eight seasons as an NFL assistant following previous stints as an assistant in the CFL and USFL.

Related information
Report: Cleveland to name Jags' Palmer as first coach
Peter King's Monday Morning QB: Land of Milk and Chaos
SI's Michael Silver: Walsh is right move for Niners
NFL Coaching Changes
Chris Palmer's first choice has always been Cleveland (568 K)
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