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Clayton: Preoccupations of other Browns head coaching candidates may give Bowles a leg up

LISTEN: John Clayton, ESPN NFL Insider

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles squeezed his name into head coaching candidacy by leading one of the NFL’s top defenses in 2013-14. Once before an interim head coach with the Miami Dolphins, Bowles’ improvement of the Cardinals’ defense — and the rushing defense, in particular, which was the best in the league this season, after ranking 28th the year prior — padded his already-promising resume.

Finally, the way his minority status sits with the NFL’s newly-created Career Development Advisory Panel, which is set to emphasize the qualifications of minority candidates like Bowles, who is African-American, bodes well for his chances at one of the league’s open head coaching jobs. Currently, four such openings exist, after the Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers filled their vacancies, and there may be more opportunities on the horizon.

The Cleveland Browns have been most directly linked to interest in Bowles, who is reportedly interviewing with the team on Friday.

The 50-year-old Bowles was a member of the last coaching staff to take the Browns to the playoffs, as a defensive backs coach from 2001-04. Despite that, the former NFL safety isn’t seen as a primary candidate for the position, according to ESPN NFL reporter John Clayton, who joined Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf on Friday.

Rather, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the name to watch, according to Clayton.

“I do think that Josh is the frontrunner,” Clayton said.

“But also what happens is if you’re Cleveland, can you really wait if the Patriots go to the Super Bowl?”

With the playoffs beginning this weekend, much remains to be seen in the head coaching picture and the preoccupations of other Browns candidates for the job may help Bowles’ chances at landing his first such position.

In addition to McDaniels, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has garnered significant interest from the Browns, who see him as an ‘option B,’ according to Clayton. His current engagement with the BCS National Championship game, which is to be played Monday, also delays the Browns’ search progress. And the two other names Clayton went on to link to the job, Seattle Seahawks coordinators Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn, themselves remain engrossed in their own team’s playoff journey.

“That,” Clayton says, “might put (the Browns) in a position to go option B, option C.”