While Mike Holmgren, president of the Cleveland Browns, will make the final decision regarding the franchise's vacant head coaching position, agent Bob LaMonte holds most of the cards as the team goes in a new direction.
Although his name has been mentioned predominantly in passing throughout the process, LaMonte's importance cannot be underestimated regarding the future of the Browns.
LaMonte represents Holmgren. The two have built a 30-year relationship relying heavily upon each others' guidance.
LaMonte also represents Tom Heckert, the Browns' general manager; Bill Wiedmeier; the team's executive vice president; and Gil Haskell, a senior adviser to Holmgren in the team's front office.
Pat Shurmur, another client, appears to be the front-runner for the vacancy and could be named the Browns coach as early as today or Friday.
Other names which have received attention regarding the head coaching position include John Gruden (current ESPN analyst and former Tampa Bay head coach), Marty Mornhinweg (Philadelphia offensive coordinator), and John Fox (deposed Carolina head coach.) All are represented by LaMonte's agency, Professional Sports Representation Inc.
Even potential coordinator candidates currently in the mix, Mike McCoy and Brad Childress, have LaMonte's strings attached.
In 2005 LaMonte highlighted a few of his relationships with these coaches and published a book, "Winning the NFL Way: Leadership Lessons from Football's Top Head Coaches".
Within its pages he stressed a key component which all leaders, be it in the board room or on the gridiron, must maintain for an organization to be successful.
"He (the coach) must excel at picking and choosing the right people - individuals who will work harmoniously with other members of the organization, making sure each person's job synchronizes with everyone else's."
It harkens back to three points of emphasis the Browns have seemingly placed as they rebuild for the fifth time since the team's return to the NFL in 1999.
The first is familiarity.
Nepotism has always ran rampant through the highest levels of the game, and the Browns search has fallen directly in line. While the term is often received with negative connotations, the reciprocal does apply in the NFL. To become one of the best, one has to trust the men around him to the utmost.
What better way than relying on an agent who believes in treating each client as one of his own family members and welcomes all into his home once a year for an annual dinner?
LaMonte may be the catalyst, but all of the aforementioned coaches have known each other in some capacity for years. LaMonte is simply the godfather.
Shurmur, for example, is the son of former Green Bay defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur who coached under Holmgren during the Packers' second golden era in the 1990s. He also coached in Philadelphia from 1999-2008 during a period when Heckert was counted among the team's front office personnel and eventual general manager.
All of the names mentioned possess these type of ties.
The second point involves scheme, concentrating on the offensive side of the football.
Holmgren is greatest living proponent of the west coast offense which dominated football in the glory days of Bill Walsh and his San Francisco 49ers. Holmgren was the team's then-offensive coordinator before moving on to Green Bay.
The head man in charge may have deflected any lines of questioning which circled this exact train of thought after Eric Mangini's dismissal from the team, but it is apparent he has a certain preference with how the team shall operate offensively.
The previous hiring of Haskell was an obvious launching point, as the former Holmgren offensive coordinator provided insight into gameplanning to the team's 2010 coordinator, Brian Daboll.
Shurmur, Mornhinweg, Gruden, McCoy, Childress and another potential coordinator candidate Juan Castillo (offensive line coach in Philadelphia) all tutored directly under Holmgren or one of his disciples.
The third point of emphasis is the presence of Colt McCoy at quarterback.
"I think it's important," Holmgren stated in his press conference last week. "I think if, there are some ifs here, if Colt is the guy and I've talked about him before and I think you see the potential there. I certainty do.
"Who the head coach is, who the offensive coordinator is, who his position coach is they're important for any team, but if all of a sudden you have the quarterback you think can be the quarterback a young man who can be the quarterback for the next 10-15 years hopefully it becomes even more important. Absolutely that is going to be one of the considerations in the search."
Cleveland is looking to build synergy within its football organization for the first time in almost two decades.
The infrastructure will only achieve its lofty aspirations by making the right hire.
"My goal is to find exactly the right person for the job of head coach of the Cleveland Browns and who can eventually, one day, lead us to the championship and that's my only goal," said Holmgren
And that person will be found via the team's direct connections to agent Bob LaMonte.
(Sobleski, a Cadiz resident, is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at email@example.com)