Nick Saban was convincing Tuesday when he reiterated he would stay as coach at Alabama and not return to the NFL. He went 15-17 with the Dolphins in 2005-06 and hasn’t forgotten the struggles.
“I kind of learned through that experience that maybe this is where I belong, and I’m really happy and at peace with all that,” Saban said a day after winning his fourth national championship, including three in four years.
So the Browns can put a thick black line through another one of their top candidates. Oregon’s Chip Kelly, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Syracuse’s Doug Marrone interviewed last week but aren’t coming to Cleveland. Kelly and O’Brien stayed in school and the Bills hired Marrone.
The Browns have more options and began another round of interviews Tuesday. Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman was at Browns headquarters, according to a source who confirmed the interview.
The team isn’t publicly commenting on the search.
Trestman, 56, was an NFL assistant for 17 years, including 1988 and ’89 with the Browns as quarterbacks coach and then offensive coordinator. He’s won two Grey Cup titles in five years in the Canadian Football League and interviewed with the Bears on Monday.
Trestman has a long resume and several solid references, but he isn’t Saban.
Saban has intrigued Browns owner Jimmy Haslam for months and would’ve been a home run. But Saban’s two years with the Dolphins showed him that he prefers the college game and the control it gives him.
“How many times do you think I’ve been asked to put it to rest?” he said of a possible return to the NFL. “And I’ve put it to rest, and you continue to ask it.
“I think somewhere along the line you’ve got to choose. You learn a lot from the experiences of what you’ve done in the past. And in the two years that I was (with the Dolphins), had a very, very difficult time thinking that I could impact the organization in the way that I wanted to or the way that I was able to in college, and it was very difficult for me, because there’s a lot of parity in the NFL, there’s a lot of rules in the NFL.
“And people say you can draft the players that you want to draft; you can draft a player that’s there when you pick. It might not be the player you need, it might not be the player you want. You’ve got salary cap issues. You’ve got to have a quarterback.”
The Browns will also reportedly interview Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. He’s also expected to meet with the Eagles and Bears.
Arians is 60 years old and has been a coach since 1975. He was head coach at Temple from 1983-88 and an NFL assistant for 20 years.
He earned a long look as a head coach, and serious consideration for NFL coach of the year, by going 9-3 as interim coach this year while Chuck Pagano dealt with leukemia. The Colts ranked 10th in total offense (362.4 yards per game) and tied for 18th in scoring (22.3 points).
“We do not want to lose Bruce Arians,” Pagano said Monday. “He is so valuable to this organization and what he means to this organization and what he’s done.”
Arians has a history in Cleveland as offensive coordinator from 2001-03 under Butch Davis. He spent the next eight years with the Steelers, the final five as coordinator, before joining the Colts this season. Arians helped bring along quarterback Ben Roethisberger in Pittsburgh and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.
Trestman began his coaching career in the early ’80s at the University of Miami while he attended law school. He coached Bernie Kosar for the Hurricanes and with the Browns and Kosar raves about him.
Trestman has long been considered a bright offensive mind and was coordinator for the Browns, 49ers, Cardinals and Raiders. He reached the playoffs 13 times and twice had the No. 1 passing offense.
He coached quarterbacks Steve Young and Jake Plummer and also helped Rich Gannon become MVP in 2002 as the Raiders reached the Super Bowl.
But Trestman never got a chance to be a head coach in the NFL and went to Canada. He is 64-34 in Montreal with three trips to the title game.
He spends time in the offseason speaking to groups and preparing quarterbacks for the scouting combine and their pro days. Browns rookie Brandon Weeden was a client last year and Trestman could provide the best chance for Weeden to stick in Cleveland.
“I thought it was my most important few days leading up to the draft,” Weeden said in a testimonial on Trestman’s website. “Getting to get up on the board and talk through West Coast systems and then be able to go out on the field and put some of those things to use.
“Marc is an extremely knowledgeable football mind and with his obvious success everywhere he has been proves that he knows how to develop and teach quarterbacks.”