CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns may grab another branch from the Bill Belichick tree for their next coach.
Hours after Adam Gase, the first candidate they interviewed, signed with Miami, the Browns' search committee met with New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who has been on Belichick's staff since 2004.
Under Belichick, Patricia has constructed one of the NFL's best defenses over the past four seasons. The Browns have a track record with Belichick defensive assistants, hiring Romeo Crennel as coach in 2005, and Eric Mangini in 2009.
Crennel went 24-40 in four seasons, posting a 10-6 mark in 2007. Mangini went 5-11 in each of two seasons before being fired.
The 41-year-old Patricia is the fifth candidate to meet with the Browns, who initially targeted Gase, Chicago's coveted offensive coordinator. He was hired on Saturday by the Dolphins, who gave him control of their 53-man roster. That's not something Cleveland's new coach will have after owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam promoted Sashi Brown as their new vice president of football operations.
It's the second time the 37-year-old Gase has snubbed the Browns. He declined a chance to interview with them two years ago when he was Denver's offensive coordinator on the way to the Super Bowl.
Cleveland's search committee, headed by the Haslams, is expected to interview Cincinnati defensive coordinator Hue Jackson and Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott on Sunday.
The Browns have also interviewed Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Jacksonville offensive assistant Doug Marrone; and Dallas defensive secondary coach Jerome Henderson, who previously worked in Cleveland. Marrone is the only candidate the Browns have spoken to thus far who has been an NFL head coach.
Described as unassuming, Patricia played center and guard while majoring in aeronautical engineering at RPI before he got into coaching.
At last year's Super Bowl media day, Patricia told boston.com about his passion to coach.
''Once you're in love with this game and you love this game, I don't think it ever leaves you,'' Patricia said. ''I do remember when I was doing engineering, it was right at the start of the fall of that football season and just the fresh cut grass, the smell of the grass, the smell of the end of summer and that whole sensation of football season hit me. And I was just like, `I've got to get out there.' That was really one of those points where it was pretty definitive for me, and that's just really what I wanted to do.''
Patricia was an assistant at Syracuse before joining Belichick's staff in 2004. He spent one season helping with the offensive line before switching to defense. He put in long hours, coached the linebackers and safeties, and was elevated to defensive coordinator in 2012.
In each of his four seasons as coordinator, the Patriots have finished in the Top 10 in scoring.
Cleveland's defense, on the other hand, has been putrid the past two seasons, part of the reason Mike Pettine was fired after going 10-22.
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