Report: Robert Saleh a 'darkhorse' HC candidate for Cleveland Browns

Josh McDaniels and Kevin Stefanski appear to be the favorites for the Cleveland Browns coaching vacancy, but Robert Saleh may make the decision difficult.

The Cleveland Browns head coaching search looks to be nearing its end, as the organization enters its final interviews and wants a deal done by Saturday. Josh McDaniels and Kevin Stefanski seem to be the favorites, but Robert Saleh may have thrown a wrench into the team's plans.

The Browns interviewed the 49ers defensive coordinator on January 4. Saleh clearly made his presence felt in the interview, as there have been nothing but good reports about the 40-year-old coach.

As the Browns conduct their final interviews of the process in the coming days, Saleh is emerging as a serious candidate for the Browns vacancy. Pro Football Network reported Wednesday that Saleh is viewed as a "darkhorse" candidate for the Cleveland job.

While much of the talk has centered around Josh McDaniels and Kevin Stefanski, sources tell PFN that 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is considered a darkhorse candidate for the head coach position. - Pro Football Network

Saleh has turned the 49ers talented young defense into the second-best defense in the NFL in 2019. Using a dominant defensive front, Saleh's unit was the best defense against the pass in the NFL, allowing only 169.2 passing yards per game.

Since Saleh's interview, reports have come out that the Browns are "very high" on the defensive minded coach. Jeremy Fowler reported that the Browns were impressed with Saleh's football and staff ideas. Connor Rogers of Bleacher Report reported Tuesday that Saleh's preparedness and energy also impressed Cleveland's search committee.

Freddie Kitchens clearly lacked leadership last season, which created an abundance of problems for the Browns. The Browns were ill-prepared on game days and lacked discipline, which were issues that lasted the entire season. However, those are two areas that are considered Saleh's strengths.

He may still be a young coach who only has three years of experience as a coordinator. However, Saleh has shown the intangibles teams would want from a head coach. He may be considered a year away from being a serious head coach candidate around the league, but in the eyes of the Browns, he may be ready to be hired this offseason.

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The Browns entered this head coaching search open-minded and left themselves room to be impressed. With their two perceived favorites interviewing Thursday and Friday, the minds of the Browns search committee are likely not made up yet. However, it appears Saleh is making the decision harder than the organization anticipated.