NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Pat Shurmur’s first head coaching gig is a big one.

The Cleveland Browns hired St. Louis’ offensive coordinator on Thursday, ending a search for their fifth coach since 1999 that began when Eric Mangini was fired on Jan. 3. Shurmur was the first candidate interviewed by Browns president Mike Holmgren.

Although he promised a “wide” coaching search, Holmgren is only known to have met with Shurmur, Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Interviews with potential candidates Jon Gruden and John Fox never got past an exploratory phone call.

Fewell was also passed on by the Carolina Panthers, who hired Ron Rivera to fill their coaching vacancy. The Broncos have also interviewed Fewell.

The Browns will introduce Shurmur as their 13th coach Friday in a news conference at their Berea, Ohio, headquarters.

Shurmur emerged as the front-runner in recent days and no one caught him.

He has deep connections with Cleveland’s front office. He spent eight years working with Browns general manager Tom Heckert. Shurmur never worked directly with Holmgren, but he learned the West Coast offense under Andy Reid, one of Holmgren’s closest friends.

“I have the utmost respect for Coach Holmgren and Tom Heckert, and I am impressed with the direction in which they have this franchise going,” Shurmur said. “I have known Tom for most of my pro coaching career, and while we were in Philadelphia, he and I developed an outstanding relationship.

“I am looking forward to this challenge and can’t wait to get started in helping to build the Browns back to one of the elite teams in the NFL.”

Shurmur’s agent, Bob LaMonte, who also represents Holmgren and Heckert, arrived Thursday to finalize a contract and the sides only needed a few hours to work out details.

When Holmgren began his first coaching search as an NFL executive, he promised head coaching experience would not be a requirement for Mangini’s successor. He kept his word.

“Pat is a bright, young man who grew up in football and around the coaching profession,” Holmgren said. “I came away from our interview very impressed with him as a person, his extensive knowledge of the game and his track record of success as an assistant coach in this league.

“Most importantly, I feel as though he possesses the necessary qualities which make him the right man to lead our football team.”

Shurmur’s hiring won’t trigger any wild celebration or a rush to the box office by Browns fans, who have to trust Holmgren’s keen eye for coaching talent. Holmgren, after all, was the one who hired an up-and-coming Gruden and Reid.

Shurmur has a knack for developing young quarterbacks, and the Browns have a promising one in Colt McCoy.

This season, Shurmur helped Rams rookie QB Sam Bradford live up to being the No. 1 overall draft pick. Bradford set rookie records for completions and attempts. He also led St. Louis to a 7-9 record — they were 1-15 a year earlier — while throwing for 3,512 yards.

Before joining the Rams, Shurmur spent 10 seasons in Philadelphia, eight of them working with Heckert. Shurmur coached the club’s tight ends and then their quarterbacks, turning a raw Donovan McNabb into one of the game’s best all-around quarterbacks.

One of Holmgren’s goals was to find a coach who could help groom McCoy, who showed great promise after being thrown into the starter’s role last season.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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