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Browns continue search for GM, coach

CLEVELAND (AP) --As their courtship with Scott Pioli continued, the Cleveland Browns postponed an interview with Atlanta president Rich McKay and talked to New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

Pioli, who has spent the past nine years helping build the Patriots into a powerhouse, met Wednesday with Browns owner Randy Lerner in New York about Cleveland's vacancy at general manager. It is not known if Lerner, who also is conducting coaching interviews this week, offered Pioli the job.

Contradictory reports surfaced regarding the 43-year-old Pioli's interest in the Browns, who went 4-12 this season and have lost at least 10 games in five of the past six seasons. Pioli may also interview with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Meanwhile, Lerner's scheduleded meeting with McKay on Thursday was put off until after Atlanta's NFC playoff game against Arizona on Saturday. It's unclear if Pioli's situation had any effect on McKay's interview being rescheduled.

Earlier this week, Falcons owner Arthur Blank granted Lerner permission to speak with McKay, who was stripped of his general manager duties after last season but remained with the club to help new GM Thomas Dimitroff with the salary cap, contract negotiations and headed several business ventures including the pursuit of a new stadium.

McKay joined the Falcons in 2004 after he was with Tampa Bay. He is co-chair of the NFL's competition committee.

He did not return a message left on his cell phone.

On the Browns' coaching search front, Lerner met with Spagnuolo, whose defense was the league's fifth-best this season. The 49-year-old Spagnuolo has an interview with the Jets scheduled for Saturday. He is the second candidate interviewed by Lerner, who met with fired Jets coach Eric Mangini on Tuesday. The Detroit Lions are also expected to meet with Spagnuolo.

He came close to leaving the Giants after last season. The Washington Redskins gave him two interviews before Spagnuolo withdrew from consideration and signed a $2 million per season contract with the Giants.

According to NFL rules, no formal job offer can be made to any coach in the playoffs until their team is eliminated or after the Super Bowl.

The Browns have interviews scheduled with Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Friday.

One of Pioli's losest football friends said it would be foolish for anyone to speculate about the New England executive's plans.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who worked with Pioli in Cleveland during the 1990s and whose name has been linked to the exec's future, warned that guessing Pioli's next move would be foolish.

I think it's presumptuous to think anybody knows what he's doing right now,'' Ferentz said Thursday after the Hawkeyes beat South Carolina 31-10 in the Outback Bowl.<br><br> For the third straight day, Ferentz addressed questions about his future. According to a Boston Herald report citing unidentified sources, if Pioli is hired by the Browns, Ferentz would be his top choice as coach.<br><br>He and I haven't talked in three weeks,'' said Ferentz, who was the Browns' offensive line coach from 1993-95. ``We've both been doing our jobs. I've got a great job at Iowa. I've said it many, many times. The people are fantastic. I just feel very, very fortunate.''


AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.

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