Cleveland Browns rumors: Nick Saban eyeing a return to Cleveland?

12/10/2012 11:00 am ET

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Sports websites, talk shows and water coolers are buzzing this morning on the possibility of Nick Saban returning to the NFL and coaching his hometown Cleveland Browns. Saban, who went to Kent State, was defensive coordinator for the Browns in the early 90's under legendary coach Bill Belichick and has reportedly told several people he is close to that he is considering a move to the Browns if certain conditions are met.

The largest consideration is one that is very likely from what we hear. Saban has blamed his failures in Miami on not having a GM/Player personnel executive that understands the "Belichick' method for drafting and player development. The person Saban is eyeing for this role is NFL Network analyst Mike Lomardi, who also worked for the Browns in the 90's with Saban and Belichick. Lombardi has reportedly had multiple conversations with Browns ownership and is seen as someone who is very likely to be running the Browns in 2013. Lombardi is very close to Saban and will pursue his former co-worker to be his head man in Cleveland.

The pieces that Saban desires in a team are already in places in Cleveland. The Browns have a very strong running game, a potentially dominant offensive line, and a defense that doesn't give up big plays.

The Browns play their last game on December 30th, while Alabama wraps up their season on January 7th vs. Notre Dame. Assuming the Browns don't make the playoffs and want to target Saban, they likely would fire coach Pat Shurmur the day after the last game (Dec 31st) and use the next week to meet NFL interview requirements before offering the role to Saban within 48 hours after the BCS game on January 7th.

Sources close to the Browns have indicated that there is still a chance Shurmur returns in 2013 and would only let him go if they had a deal, even if a secret one, with Saban or Jon Gruden prior to making a decision to let Shurmur go.

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