Viewed as the frontrunner to become the Browns’ next general manager, George Paton removed his name from consideration for the position, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports (on Twitter).
The Vikings’ assistant GM spent time in Cleveland this week going through a second interview, one that was expected to lead to his joining Kevin Stefanski as the key members of the next Browns power structure. But an organization that has struggled to form continuity under its current ownership will now have to make another plan.
Paton’s withdrawal partially stems from an uncertainty about how the Browns would divvy up power, Cabot adds. The GM, Stefanski and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta are set to report to owner Jimmy Haslam. The Browns operated that way during the Sashi Brown–Hue Jackson years and are set to return to that arrangement.
A 13-year Vikings executive, Paton has turned down multiple teams who have sought meetings with him for GM vacancies. The selective exec was initially contemplating doing the same to the Browns. His apprehension stemmed from former Browns front office staffer Andrew Berry‘s relationship with Haslam potentially making him the favorite for the job, but Paton took a meeting with Browns ownership because of Stefanski’s presence.
Berry is again the leading candidate for the job, Cabot reports. The Eagles exec is eager to prove he is not a “1-31 football GM,” according to TheLandonDemand.com’s Tony Grossi (Twitter link). It appears Berry is still interested in returning to Cleveland. Berry, who joined Paton and Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort in interviewing for the Browns’ GM role, spent 2016-18 with the Browns before joining the Eagles as VP of football operations last year.
Berry has received interest from the Panthers as well, but the Eagles blocked him interviewing for a non-GM job with Carolina. One of Sashi Brown‘s top lieutenants during the Browns’ new-age front office experiment, Berry remains close to DePodesta. The ex-MLB GM is running the Browns’ GM search. Stefanski and Berry also became acquainted during the Browns’ 2019 coaching search, and Cabot notes the two are still interested in working together.
While the Brown-DePodesta-Berry experiment produced historically terrible results — a 1-31 record from 2016-17 — Haslam retaining DePodesta and bringing Berry back in for an interview confirm the owner remains interested in this analytically geared vision.
The Browns have gone through amazing front office turnover under Haslam. Their most recent regime change involved parting ways with John Dorsey after barely two years. Brown received less time. So did the Michael Lombardi–Joe Banner power structure. Ray Farmer also did not get two full years on job. Haslam fired Tom Heckert, GM from 2010-12, in his first months as owner.