Less than a year ago, the Cleveland Browns head coaching job looked like a death trap. A lose-lose situation. An express lane to unemployment.

Halfway through the 2014 season, it might be the most exciting job in football.

Which is why it's all the more fun to remember the guys who turned it down.

As CBS Sports reminded us, at least six interviewed candidates wound up turning down the Browns head coaching job last winter. There may have been others that also said no to the franchise.

And in fairness, there was good reason to be skeptical. The Browns had cut bait on 2012 first-round draft pick Trent Richardson earlier in the season, then fired Rob Chudzinski after one disappointing season in which he didn't have much to work with.

The Browns weren't sure if they had any answers at quarterback, when Brian Hoyer missing most of the season due to an ACL tear. And it wasn't clear whether ownership was stable enough to give the incoming coach a fair shot at succeeding.

But Mike Pettine has made it work, and made it work perfectly. Meanwhile, the laundry list of candidates Cleveland preferred over him might be watching and wondering what might have been.

Some are not exactly hurting for opportunity. Josh McDaniels is having a successful year as New England's offensive coordinator, and Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is still basking in the limelight of last year's Super Bowl.

Denver's Adam Gase, meanwhile, might have taken the job if he had won a Super Bowl last year. Instead, his consolation is running an offense led by Peyton Manning. And Todd Bowles is living the sweet life with 8-1 Arizona, where the defense coordinator just signed a contract extension.

But not everyone's ending wound up happily ever after. Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is having a frustrating year with the 3-6 Falcons. And Greg Schiano disliked the Browns job so much he opted for unemployment instead of head coaching.

Maybe it's all for the best. Pettine has done a brilliant job getting the most out of his roster. With a stable quarterback and a strong defense, the Browns are atop a brutal AFC North in which all four teams currently have a winning record.

And when you think about it, a Cleveland sports team and a seventh-or-worse-on-the-list head coach does seem like a perfect marriage. The surprise twist is that the union is working out so well.

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