The Super Bowl helped save the Broncos from losing offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
The leading candidate to become the Cleveland Browns' head coach, Gase called the team Tuesday morning to say he was withdrawing from consideration so he could fully concentrate on the Broncos' quest to win the Super Bowl, according to an NFL source.
Gase, who turns 36 on March 29, now becomes a top candidate for any head coaching opening for the 2015 season.
The Browns are the only NFL team without a head coach. They have had the vacancy since hours after their final regular-season game Dec. 29, when they fired Rob Chudzinski after he went 4-12 in his first and only season.
The Browns have reportedly interviewed eight candidates to replace Chudzinski, who was fired on Dec. 29.
It was clear the Browns wanted to make Gase their next head coach. He was especially to have been the top choice of owner Jimmy Haslam, who is a close personal friend of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning since going back to their days at the University of Tennessee.
In Manning's first 15 years as an NFL quarterback, he never put up a season like he did in his first season with Gase as his offensive coordinator in 2013. Manning set NFL records with 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards while the Broncos set another league mark with 606 points.
The Browns wanted to tap into that passing genius. Earlier this season, they made a stunning trade that sent running back Trent Richardson — the team's No. 3 overall draft pick in 2012 — to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a first-round pick Cleveland hopes to convert into a top-pick quarterback in this year's draft.
But after waiting more than three weeks for Gase to become available, the Broncos' berth in the Super Bowl worked against the Browns.
Although Gase had given the Browns little thought while the Broncos were in the midst of their playoff run that featured wins against San Diego and New England, it became evident the longer he waited, the tougher it would be for him to put a quality coaching staff together if he did accept the Browns' head coaching job.
Whatever coaching assistants Gase might have wanted to come along have made commitments elsewhere in the three weeks since the season ended.
Gase is the third candidate — technically he never was one since he hasn't been interviewed — to pull out of the running for the Browns job. Patriots offensive coordinator (and former Broncos head coach) Josh McDaniels and Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles have also withdrawn.
Reportedly, the Browns want to set up second interviews with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, but so far those interviews have not been scheduled.
Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald contributed to this report.