By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Jim Schwartz began his NFL career as a gofer with the Browns. If he comes back, he can boss people around.
The Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator, who started out as a scout and errand runner under coach Bill Belichick in Cleveland, interviewed Wednesday to be the Browns’ next coach. Schwartz has more head coaching experience than any of the other five candidates who have spoken to the team.
Schwartz had a five-year run as Detroit’s coach, and he long has been regarded as one of the league’s top assistants.
The 53-year-old is looking for another shot as head coach, and he could get the chance with the Browns, who are the only team still looking.
Owner Jimmy Haslam promised a “disciplined” and “thorough” search for his next coach last week, and there’s no reason for the Browns to rush now that they don’t have any competition and the field of available candidates has thinned with Washington, Carolina, Dallas and the New York Giants addressing their vacancies.
Schwartz is not considered a front-runner for Cleveland’s job, but he does have an impressive resume, which includes inheriting an 0-16 team in Detroit and taking it to the playoffs in his third season. Schwartz went 29-52 with the Lions.
After coaching in college, Schwartz joined the Browns in 1993 and worked with the team for three years before owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore, where he became the Ravens’ outside linebackers coach. He was Tennessee’s defensive coordinator and then got the Lions job in 2009.
Schwartz has spent the past four seasons with the Eagles, who have ranked in the top 5 in yards and points allowed three times with him in charge. He is under contract with Philadelphia through next season, but the club can’t stop him from taking a head job with another team.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson is thrilled that Schwartz is getting a chance to sell himself to the Browns.
“I think he would make a tremendous head coach again with his leadership and what he has brought and how I’ve been able to lean on him and his experiences as a former head coach,” Pederson said. “Jim’s done an outstanding job with our defense, obviously, the improvement we saw throughout the course of this season. I’m excited for him and his opportunity and wish him the best.”
Haslam and his search committee, which includes chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, have interviews scheduled with Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski on Thursday and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Friday.
McDaniels, who has Ohio roots and is believed to be favored by Haslam, had planned visits to Carolina and the New York Giants, but both of those teams zeroed in on other coaches on Tuesday.
Stefanski was DePodesta’s preferred choice last year when Haslam chose Freddie Kitchens, who was fired after going 6-10 during a drama-filled season.
The Browns also interviewed former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
McCarthy was signed by the Cowboys on Tuesday.
Schwartz and McDaniels are the only remaining candidates with head coaching experience.
Once the Browns hire a coach, they’ll begin interviews for general manager. Haslam wanted his new coach involved in that process to make sure they’re aligned from the outset.
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