Sources: Pat Shurmur atop Browns' list

Updated: January 13, 2011, 11:50 AM ET
By Adam Schefter | ESPN

Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has emerged as the leading candidate for the Cleveland Browns' head coaching job, according to league sources.

The sources said Cleveland hopes to hammer out a contract with Shurmur within the next 48 hours and introduce Shurmur as coach at a news conference by Friday.

The deal should not be difficult to close, since Browns president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert, executive vice president Bryan Wiedmeier and Shurmur all have the same agent, Bob Lamonte.

LaMonte arrived at team headquarters Thursday to negotiate a contract for Shurmur with Holmgren.

If Shurmur's deal falls through, the Browns could turn to former Panthers coach John Fox, who spent Wednesday interviewing with the Broncos. Cleveland already has interviewed Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, but Shurmur, 45, is the candidate who has commanded the most attention.

Holmgren likes Shurmur and what he can bring to the Browns, according to the sources.

Although he lacks head coaching experience, Shurmur's background running a West Coast offense and working with young quarterbacks is appealing to Holmgren, who set out on his search determined to "find exactly the right person for the job who can eventually someday lead us to the championship. That is my only goal."

Holmgren wants to expand Cleveland's offense, which languished under Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

Under Shurmur's guidance this season, Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford passed for 18 touchdowns and 3,512 yards -- second-most by a rookie behind Peyton Manning's 3,739 in 1998. Before joining St. Louis' staff, Shurmur coached Philadelphia's quarterbacks and developed Donovan McNabb into one of the game's top players at the position.

Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL insider. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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