CLEVELAND (AP) — Jim Caldwell spent a year away from the NFL, and while he was gone the Browns found a franchise quarterback.
Maybe he'll get to coach Baker Mayfield.
Caldwell, who led Indianapolis to the Super Bowl and made Detroit respectable, became the second candidate to interview with Browns general manager John Dorsey, who is in the early stages of finding the franchise's ninth coach since 1999.
Caldwell met Wednesday with Dorsey and other members of the team's search committee in Berea, Ohio. The Browns are only confirming interviews after they are completed.
The 63-year-old Caldwell's experience makes him a worthy candidate. He coached the Colts from 2009-11, winning the AFC title in his first season but losing to New Orleans in the Super Bowl. He went 36-28 in four seasons with the Lions before he was fired after going 9-7 in 2017.
Dorsey is not limiting his search, and Caldwell seems to check many of the boxes the Browns are looking for in a coach following their bounce-back season. Cleveland narrowly missed the playoffs once season after going 0-16 under Hue Jackson.
On Tuesday, Dorsey met with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He went 5-3 as Cleveland's interim coach after replacing Jackson on Oct. 29. Dorsey also plans to interview Freddie Kitchens, who was promoted from running backs coach to offensive coordinator and brought out the best in Mayfield.
It's expected the Browns will meet at some point with former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy as he has connections with Dorsey and others in Cleveland's front office following years together with the Packers.
Cleveland has also reportedly received permission to interview New Orleans assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell, New England linebackers coach Brian Flores, Minnesota offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and Indianapolis coordinators Nick Sirianni and Matt Eberflus.
Caldwell previously interviewed for Green Bay's opening, one of eight around the league.
Earlier this week, Dorsey outlined what he's looking for in a coach.
"You want a man of character," he said. "A guy who can instill leadership into these young men. A guy who is a collaborative thinker. A guy who is a continuous learner. A guy who is consistent on a day-in and day-out basis and who those players can look up to and go, 'You know what? I will follow that guy anywhere.' That is the goal for the organization is to get to what is best for this organization — find a man of character who can lead young men."
Caldwell's vast experience in college and the pros, along with a winning record in the NFL, boost his candidacy. He went 64-54, including 2-4 in the postseason, during seven seasons with Indianapolis (2009-11) and Detroit (2014-17).
Caldwell was dismissed by the Lions despite two playoff appearances, and he spent the past year working as a consultant for the rebooting XFL.
Dorsey wants a coach he can align with Mayfield, who set the rookie record for TD passes this season. Caldwell's background includes several seasons with future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning, who took the Colts to a Super Bowl win in 2007. Caldwell also worked as Baltimore's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under coach John Harbaugh when quarterback Joe Flacco led the Ravens to a championship in 2012.
Caldwell is among the minority candidates recommended to the league by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes diversity and equality among NFL teams. The league's Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate.