George Paton

AFC Notes: Browns, Titans, Texans

Once thought to be the Browns‘ top choice for their latest GM vacancy, George Paton backed out of the race. However, a deal may not have been imminent. The Browns had yet to make Paton an offer, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. Paton’s reasons for backing out of the Cleveland search are not totally clear, but Breer confirms an issue with Jimmy Haslam‘s organizational hierarchy was one of them. Most of the Browns’ GM candidates had an issue with Haslam’s setup — in which the GM, Kevin Stefanski and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta report directly to the owner — and Paton was not an exception, Breer adds. With the Browns since bringing Andrew Berry back to Cleveland as the NFL’s youngest GM (at 32), Haslam has now worked with six GMs or front office heads since buying the team in 2012. While Breer notes Paton was seriously considering taking the job after the first interview went well, the frequently hesitant Vikings exec will stay in his assistant GM post in Minnesota.

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Although the Browns are set up on an analytics front, their scouting experience in the front office is less certain. John Dorsey hired both assistant GM Eliot Wolf and VP of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith, but each longtime exec worked with Berry when he was still with the team in 2018. Highsmith’s contract runs through the 2021 draft, and Wolf’s goes through the ’22 draft, Breer adds.
  • An intra-AFC South coaching move occurred Tuesday. The Titans poached Texans defensive backs coach Anthony Midget, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Midget, who’d been with Houston throughout Bill O’Brien‘s six-season tenure, received the head coach-GM’s permission to interview with Tennessee, per Paul Kuharsky of Paul Kuharsky.com (Twitter link). He will hold the same job with the Titans next season, replacing Kerry Coombs.
  • The Texans will replace Midget in-house, promoting assistant secondary coach D’Anton Lynn to the top DBs role, Wilson adds. Lynn, 30, is the son of Chargers HC Anthony Lynn and has been with the Texans since 2018.
  • Texans backup center Greg Mancz underwent ankle surgery, according to Wilson. A five-year veteran and 28-game starter in his time with the Texans, Mancz underwent an arthroscopic procedure and is expected to be ready for Texans OTAs. The former UDFA originally injured the ankle during the preseason.

Coaching/Front Office Notes: Browns, Broncos, Giants, Titans, Panthers, Dolphins

When previous frontrunner George Paton removed himself from consideration for the Browns’ general manager vacancy, there were reports that he had concerns about Cleveland’s power structure. That might’ve been a bit overblown, as sources told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com that Paton was “not at all scared off by Browns’ structure” (Twitter link). Further, Fowler writes that Paton was “impressed with people in the building and thinks highly of” new head coach Kevin Stefanski, while it came down to the fact that he “felt he had a good thing still going in Minnesota.” Paton is currently an assistant GM with the Vikings. That’s good news for Browns fans, but the earlier reports are still concerning. Stefanski, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, and whoever the new GM is will all be reporting directly to owner Jimmy Haslam, which understandably turns off some prospective candidates.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks:

  • We heard Mike Shula’s interview with the Broncos went well, and now he’s about to be hired. Shula is going to become Denver’s next quarterbacks coach, the team is just working out contract details, a source told Mike Klis of Denver 9 News (Twitter link). Specifically, Klis writes that offsets with the Giants still need to be worked out. Shula had been the Giants’ offensive coordinator before Pat Shurmur was fired, and there was apparently offset language in his contract. Prior to joining New York, Shula was the Panthers’ OC for five seasons. Shurmur has since been hired as Denver’s offensive play-caller, so obviously there’s a lot of familiarity here.
  • Speaking of former Giants coaches, New York’s former head coach Ben McAdoo left his visit with the Browns without a deal, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link). Garafolo notes that it is still unclear exactly what role McAdoo was interviewing for in Cleveland. Garafolo also writes he was “in play” to be Carolina’s new quarterbacks coach.
  • Jason Garrett is re-teaming with one of his guys. The new Giants offensive coordinator will be paired back up with Marc Colombo, who is going to be New York’s new offensive line coach, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. Colombo had been Garrett’s O-line coach in Dallas. The Cowboys routinely had one of the league’s best offensive lines, so this seems like a strong hire.
  • Legendary assistant Dean Pees elected to retire as the Titans’ defensive coordinator, leaving Mike Vrabel with a big hole on his staff. The “expectation in [the] coaching community” is that Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen will be promoted to DC, per Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL (Twitter link). Bowen had previously served as a defensive assistant with the Texans, so he has deep ties to Vrabel.
  • Rookie Panthers head coach Matt Rhule continues to fill out his inaugural staff, and he just made a couple of new hires. Rhule is expected to hire Pat Meyer away from the Chargers as his offensive line coach, and Jason Simmons away from the Packers as his defensive backs coach, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Meyer had been Los Angeles’ OL coach and run-game coordinator, while Simmons coached the Packers’ DBs. Rhule’s staff is now almost fully fleshed out.
  • Finally, the Dolphins are hiring a new defensive backs coach in Gerald Alexander, as Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald tweets. Alexander is coming from the college ranks, where he served as the defensive backs coach at Cal for the past few seasons. Alexander was briefly with the Dolphins as a safety during his playing days back in 2011. Miami had the vacancy after they promoted Josh Boyer to defensive coordinator following Patrick Graham’s departure.

George Paton Out Of Browns’ GM Search

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 BrownHue 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 LombardiJoe 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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns, George Paton

Jan. 22: Paton’s second interview with the Browns will take place today, per Nate Ulirch of the Akron Beacon Journal (via Twitter). Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com, who first reported that Paton was flying to Cleveland today, said we could have a resolution in the next couple of days (Twitter link).

Jan. 20: George Paton has moved to the front of the Browns’ GM search, with the Minnesota-to-Cleveland pairing of Paton-Kevin Stefanski looking like the next Browns power structure.

But the longtime Vikings executive will meet with Browns brass one more time, doing so later this week, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. With the Vikings since 2007, Paton has been selective about his GM future over the past several years. He’s turned down multiple teams’ offers since 2017, so it would certainly be interesting to see Rick Spielman‘s top lieutenant jump ship to one of the NFL’s least stable franchises.

Initially, Paton paused on taking a Browns interview because of the prospect of an Andrew Berry reunion, Cabot adds. But the prospect of working with Stefanski enticed him to take the meeting.

Berry was a Browns exec from 2016-18, coming aboard when Jimmy Haslam brought in Sashi Brown and current chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta to run a new-age front office. But Paton’s first Browns meeting obviously went quite well, and he appears to be leading a field that includes Berry and Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort.

Paton’s Vikings tenure overlapped with Stefanski’s. The new Browns HC also became acquainted with Berry during the John Dorsey-led coaching search that led to Freddie Kitchens taking over. Berry then joined the Eagles’ front office. But a Minneapolis East setup may be the latest in a long line of power structures under Haslam.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns To Hire George Paton?

The Browns could hire George Paton to be their new GM early this week, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com hears. Though nothing has been finalized, it sounds like the Vikings assistant general manager will be the club’s hire and make his long-awaited move up the ladder. 

Paton has been very picky with interviews in recent years and he was reportedly waffling on whether to even interview for the Browns’ vacancy. On Saturday, he met with team brass and things are apparently moving in a positive direction.

The Browns also interviewed Eagles VP of football operations Andrew Berry and Patriots director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort on Friday. Berry was thought to be the favorite for weeks, due to his familiarity with the organization. Instead, Paton is now expected to take over for John Dorsey and guide the Browns through a critical offseason.

Paton may be a natural fit for a team that just hired longtime Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski as its head coach. The two men overlapped in Minnesota for 13 years, so they should be well-aligned.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Johnson, Stefanski, Browns

Chad Johnson’s time as a pro football player might not be finished after all. The legendary former NFL receiver will tryout as a kicker with the XFL on Monday, he announced on Twitter. The tryout in Houston is indeed legit, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com confirmed with a source. Johnson is 42 now, and hasn’t appeared in a game since the 2011 season. He’s a huge soccer fan, and has often expressed an interest in kicking. Back during the 2009 preseason when he was still with the Bengals, he converted an extra point and handled a kickoff. Johnson became a six-time Pro Bowler with Cincinnati and was a first-team All-Pro selection three times. One of the best receivers in the league for a long stretch, he finished with 11,059 yards and 67 touchdowns. He also briefly played in the CFL a handful of years ago. It still seems like more of a publicity stunt than anything else, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Here’s more from around the football world:

  • The Browns settled on a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, but they’re still searching for a new general manager. One potential candidate is Vikings assistant GM George Paton, but he’s apparently hard to pin down. Paton has been very picky with interviews in recent years, and the Browns still haven’t gotten a firm commitment from him on whether or not he’ll interview, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). It was initially reported that Paton had agreed to interview, but that turned out not to be true. Eagles executive Andrew Berry and Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort are also candidates.
  • Whoever Cleveland selects to be their next GM, Stefanski will have a lot of input in the front office. The rookie head coach “will have a large say in roster decisions,” writes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Kay Cabot thinks they wouldn’t want his help hiring the new general manager if he wasn’t going to have a lot of power once they’re hired. Stefanski is still only 37 and last season was his first full one as a coordinator, but the Haslam family clearly has a lot of trust in him.
  • Stefanski still has some staffing decisions to make, even after it appears he settled on Joe Woods to be his new defensive coordinator. He won’t be hiring a new special teams coordinator, as sources told Kay Cabot that he’s going to keep Mike Priefer as a rare holdover from Freddie Kitchens’ staff. Priefer was Minnesota’s special teams coordinator for eight seasons while Stefanski was with the Vikings, so they have a lot of familiarity with one another. Priefer had previously been STC for the Chiefs and Broncos.

Latest On Browns, George Paton

4:20pm: Paton may not be as interested in the position as Berry or Ossenfort. The experienced exec does not, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling, have an interview scheduled with the Browns (Twitter link). Paton has been especially selective over the years, so further deliberation would not exactly be a surprise.

2:26pm: The Browns’ GM search will include an interview will include a meeting with George Paton. The Vikings’ assistant GM will meet with the Browns this weekend, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Paton joins Eagles executive Andrew Berry and Patriots front office staffer Monti Ossenfort as candidates. A few more names have been mentioned in this search, but the Browns’ interview itinerary has formed.

In the GM mix for years, Paton would seemingly be a natural fit for a team that just hired longtime Vikings assistant Kevin Stefanski. A career-long Vikings coach, Stefanski has worked with Paton for 13 years. Paton has been with the Vikings since 2007 and previously worked with current boss Rick Spielman in Miami and Chicago.

Paton was in the mix for the 49ers job that went to John Lynch three years ago but turned down an opportunity to interview with the Jets last year. He did the same when John Dorsey‘s ouster created a Chiefs GM vacancy in 2017. The Browns prioritized hiring their head coach first this time around, with chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta overseeing the coaching search that produced Stefanski after Dorsey ran last year’s process.

Browns Request Interview With Vikings’ George Paton

The Browns requested permission to interview Vikings assistant GM George Paton for their GM vacancy, a source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Paton worked in Minnesota with new Vikings head coach Kevin Stefanski, so he’d be a logical fit for the job.

Paton has been a prominent GM candidate in the last few offseason cycles, though he has also pulled his name from consideration on multiple occasions, including the Jets’ search that resulted in Mike Maccagnan‘s hire in 2015. Late last offseason, after the Jets canned Maccagnan, he rejected their offer to interview for the third time in his career.

When Paton said no to Gang Green, it was speculated that he was wary of the team’s internal discord and complicated power structure. The same could be said of the Browns, though his relationship with Stefanski could sway him. Indeed, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Paton will interview for the Browns’ gig.

On Monday morning, Colts executive Ed Dodds turned down the Browns’ invitation to interview. Meanwhile, former Browns exec and current Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry figures to be a top candidate.

Vikings’ George Paton Turns Down Jets

George Paton has completed the hat trick. On Thursday, the Vikings assistant general manager declined to interview with the Jets for the third time in his career, according to Chad Graff, Jon Krawczynski, and Connor J. Hughes of The Athletic (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: Jets GM Search Tracker]

Paton turned down the Jets’ invitation to interview for the GM job in 2013 and again in 2015. The well-respected executive will instead remain with the Vikings, leaving Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer, Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly, and Saints director of pro scouting Terry Fontenot as the club’s only known candidates.

There’s no word on why Paton has rejected the Jets (for a third time), but many have speculated that the club’s internal discord and Adam Gase‘s control of the 53-man roster could be sticking points for top candidates.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jets’ GM Search

We have another update on the Jets’ search for a general manager as you’re hopefully enjoying Memorial Day, this time courtesy of Albert Breer of SI.com. So far, the Jets have requested interviews with four candidates. While the request part is often a formality, it sounds like the Jets might not actually get everybody on their list.

Breer was told that “it remains unclear if Minnesota exec George Paton will accept” his interview request. Paton has been a hot GM candidate in the past, though he has pulled his name from consideration multiple times, so it’s not too surprising he’s being selective here. Paton is clearly comfortably with the Vikings, and will only leave for the perfect opportunity.

While they might not end up interviewing Paton, Chicago’s Champ Kelly and Seattle’s Scott Fitterer are both going to meet with Jets brass. Breer reports that Fitterer’s interview is scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Breer reiterates that Eagles exec Joe Douglas “remains the favorite,” and he writes that he’s “the one hire the Jets can make that could mitigate the public relations mess of the last few weeks,” citing his “sterling reputation as an evaluator” and “ability to assemble a loaded scouting staff.”

If the Jets do end up hiring Douglas, who has a longstanding relationship with Jets coach and interim GM Adam Gase, that doesn’t mean none of the other candidates will be joining the new front office. Breer notes that “there’s a belief in scouting circles that if Kelly doesn’t get the GM job, he could still land in Jersey working under Douglas.”

As of now, Douglas seems like a strong favorite. Gase has insisted that Jets owner/CEO Christopher Johnson will have final say, but everybody seems to believe Gase is calling the shots. Douglas was the Bears’ director of college scouting when Gase was the offensive coordinator in Chicago in 2015.