Kevin Stefanski

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.

Browns Hire Kevin Stefanski As Head Coach

Jan. 13: The Browns have formally announced the hire. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that Cleveland has given Stefanski a five-year contract (Twitter link).

Jan. 12: The Browns will hire Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as their new head coach, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports (via Twitter) that it’s a done deal. Stefanski was the runner-up for the Cleveland HC gig last year, and after Freddie Kitchen‘s disastrous 2019 campaign resulted in his dismissal, the Browns have circled back to the man many believe they should have hired in the first place.

Stefanski has served in a variety of roles for the Vikings since joining the organization back in 2006, including stints as the tight ends coach, running backs coach, and quarterbacks coach. The 37-year-old was named interim offensive coordinator following the firing of John DeFilippo during the 2018 season, and he earned the full-time gig prior to the 2019 campaign.

During Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points. The coach led the trio of Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, and Mike Boone to top-six rankings in rushing yards and touchdowns, and he also helped quarterback Kirk Cousins have one of the best seasons of his career. Although the Vikings laid an egg in Saturday’s divisional round loss to the 49ers, Cleveland was obviously undeterred.

The Browns’ coaching search saw them interview eight candidates, as our 2020 head coaching search tracker shows (former Baylor HC Matt Rhule, who ultimately accepted the Panthers’ head coaching job, turned down the opportunity to interview with Cleveland). Browns chief strategist Paul DePodesta piloted the search, and recent reports indicated that he had narrowed his list to Stefanski and Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, though Cabot tweets that Stefanski and 49ers DC Robert Saleh were the two finalists.

Interestingly, DePodesta’s contract with Cleveland is reportedly set to expire, but given his role in the coaching search, it seems likely that the Browns will retain him. However, the team continues to search for a new GM, and Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry may have just become the leading candidate for that role, as his analytically-driven approach meshes with Stefanski’s.

Meanwhile, Vikings QB coach Klint Kubiak could follow Stefanski to Cleveland to become the Browns’ new OC, as Mike Klis of 9News.com tweets.

With the Stefanski hire, the 2020 head coaching cycle has come to a stop. The Browns were the last of the five teams with a head coaching vacancy this year to hire their HC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ Coaching & GM Search

The Browns have their new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, but they still need a new GM after firing John Dorsey. They recently requested an interview with Eagles exec Andrew Berry, and Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports tweets that he’s “at the front of the GM candidates.”

Robinson notes that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam once said he considered Berry a future GM, and that he has a relationship with chief strategist Paul DePodesta. In a separate tweet, Robinson explains that it may come down to whether or not Berry wants to take the job. He notes that Berry, who used to work in Cleveland under former GM Sashi Brown, is only 32 and in a good situation in Philly. He also writes that Berry will likely get other calls if he passes on the job.

As for the search that ultimately ended in Stefanski, Robinson has some interesting new nuggets. He tweets that Josh McDanielswanted a specific structure with the Browns” and that he “wasn’t going to an org where DePodesta or anyone else was a ‘side jury’ reporting to Haslam.” If that’s the case, then it sounds like McDaniels never got too close to landing in Cleveland despite his lengthy visit. The Browns and Haslam have caught plenty of flak for their odd reporting structures, and it sounds like that was an issue once again this time around. 

Robinson also tweets that both Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh “had very good interviews” and that he thinks they were the finalists along with Stefanski. Both should be hot names during next cycle. As for Stefanski’s staff, Robinson tweets that the rookie head coach will likely target either Gary or Klint Kubiak. The Kubiaks were on staff with Stefanski in Minnesota, although Robinson thinks the Vikings will try to retain both. Either could be a candidate to be Cleveland’s new OC assuming Stefanski hires one.

Finally, Robinson tweeted about the future prospects for assistant GM Eliot Wolf and VP of Player Personnel Alonzo Highsmith. He thinks the Haslams are open to both staying, and that Wolf will have a conversation with whoever the new GM is about a role.

Brian Daboll, Robert Saleh Remain In Mix For Browns Job

The Browns interviewed Josh McDaniels on Friday to (seemingly) wrap up their eight-candidate run of meetings. The buzz at the work week’s end fixated on the Patriots offensive coordinator and Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski, but this weekend, other names remain in the mix.

Bills OC Brian Daboll is the sleeper in this process, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen, who notes Daboll gave a strong interview earlier this week (Twitter link). Additionally, 49ers DC Robert Saleh is not off the radar either. Saleh and Stefanski have been most connected to this job recently, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

Saleh and Stefanski will match up in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon, and the loser of said showdown will be eligible to accept Cleveland’s offer immediately. While the Browns would have to wait to hire the winner in this matchup, they are not competing against any other team to fill their HC post. The Browns were believed to want to wrap up this search by today, but Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes that the team now seeks to table that decision until after divisional-round weekend (Twitter link).

McDaniels left Cleveland without a deal in place, which could be an ominous sign for his chances of securing his job with his hometown franchise. The northeast Ohio native has interviewed for this job three times since 2009. Stefanski wowed Browns brass during last year’s coaching search, but the John Dorsey-led search included Jimmy Haslam preferring Freddie Kitchens. Paul DePodesta, who is piloting this year’s search, has a good relationship with Eagles DC Jim Schwartz. But the former Lions HC’s momentum may have cooled.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: McDaniels, Browns, Judge, Giants, Rams, Cowboys

Josh McDaniels left his Browns visit without a deal, and the latest word is that Cleveland will take the weekend to mull things over. While they’ve been careful not to tip their hand too much, Michael Lombardi of The Athletic tweets that it’s not a good sign McDaniels went back home without a contract. Lombardi was the first to suggest that now former Browns GM John Dorsey might be in danger, so he’s certainly plugged into the situation. A report from earlier this morning indicated that McDaniels, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz were the three finalists, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets that “multiple people around the league” believe it’s down to McDaniels and Stefanski. If Lombardi and Fowler are both correct, then that would seem to indicate Stefanski is the favorite as of right now.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks:

  • The Giants gave Joe Judge a five-year contract to be their head coach, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). It’s not the massive seven-year deal that Matt Rhule got from the Panthers, but it’s a significant commitment nonetheless. It’s especially noteworthy since, as Schefter points out, each of New York’s last two coaches have been given two years or less on the job. Simply to avoid the reputation of being coach-killers, the Giants’ ownership will likely give Judge a somewhat lengthy leash.
  • Cleveland is the only team with a head-coaching vacancy, but the dust has yet to settle for plenty of assistant coaches. There are still a lot of openings around the league, and it looks like a bidding war is brewing between the Rams and Cowboys. Both Los Angeles and Dallas are fighting to make Stan Drayton their next running backs coach, according to Gil Brandt of NFL.com (Twitter link). Drayton is currently the run-game coordinator at Texas. Brandt notes that Drayton coached Ezekiel Elliott at Ohio State, which explains the Cowboys’ interest. It’ll be interesting to see whether he picks Sean McVay or Mike McCarthy.
  • In case you missed it, Rhule is looking to bring his defensive coordinator from Baylor with him to fill the same position in Carolina.

Latest On Browns’ Coaching Search

Part 1 of the final leg of Browns interviews took place Wednesday, with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sitting down with team brass. Despite being a late entry into this process, Schwartz continues to gain steam.

The former Lions head coach is a legitimate candidate to land this job, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, who is running this search, already has a good relationship with Schwartz, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (video link).

Kevin Stefanski is up next, with that interview set to take place Thursday in Minneapolis. Stefanski impressed during two interviews for this job last year, but Rapoport notes that while John Dorsey ran the search that ended with Freddie Kitchens, owner Jimmy Haslam also nixed a potential Stefanski-Browns union. While DePodesta now has greater say in how the Browns proceed here, Haslam certainly still will make the call.

Josh McDaniels‘ interview remains on for Friday. The longtime Patriots OC has interviewed with his hometown team twice before. Although McDaniels withdrew his name from consideration for the Browns job in 2014 and backed out of a Colts agreement four years later, Rapoport adds that the 43-year-old assistant “definitely wants” this job. However, he may no longer be the favorite.

The Browns have interviewed several others in this search, which is slated to be an eight-interview process. But at this point it would be a bit of a surprise if one of these final three did not end up with the job. The team is aiming to have a coach by Saturday. Here is where the Browns’ process stands as of Wednesday night, courtesy of PFR’s Head Coaching Search Tracker:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ HC Search

The Browns are no longer competing with any team for coaching candidates, with the Panthers and Giants having made their choices. However, neither hired a coach the Browns were considering. Both were linked to Josh McDaniels, who remains set to interview with the Browns on Friday.

But with Jim Schwartz entering the derby and Kevin Stefanski remaining a Browns target, McDaniels’ status as frontrunner may be slipping. The Patriots offensive coordinator may not have the edge Schwartz or Stefanski, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link).

Stefanski wowed Browns brass in his 2019 interview, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer adds. But then-GM John Dorsey promoted Freddie Kitchens instead. With Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta running this year’s search, the team appears to be seeking analytically geared coaches. Schwartz and Stefanski profile as embracing analytics, per Rapoport.

McDaniels, however, still has support in the Browns building, Cabot notes, adding that DePodesta and ex-Browns exec Andrew Berry (now with the Eagles) would be interested in a reunion. However, Cabot points to said reunion being most likely to commence with Stefanski as the head coach.

McDaniels’ interview will occur Friday — two days after Schwartz’s and one day after Stefanski’s. A northeast Ohio native, the 43-year-old McDaniels has interviewed with the Browns twice before. He met with the Browns during previous owner Randy Lerner‘s tenure in 2009, but the team hired Eric Mangini. McDaniels withdrew his name from consideration after interviewing in 2014, when current owner Jimmy Haslam was in charge. The Browns conducted a lengthy search in 2014; McDaniels was once believed to be the favorite during that process as well. The Browns want to make their hire by Saturday, so second interviews do not appear to be on tap.

Here is where the Browns’ process stands as of Tuesday night, courtesy of PFR’s Head Coaching Search Tracker:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Panthers, Rhule, McDaniels

The latest from around the NFL:

  • Saints assistant Mike Nolan is a name to watch as new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy searches for his next defensive coordinator, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) hears.
  • The Panthers‘ interview with Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski will take place in Minneapolis on Thursday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) reports. The Browns could also schedule a chat with Stefanski for that same day. During Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points. With Stefanski on the sidelines, the Vikings also managed a 26-20 win over the Saints on Sunday to advance to the divisional round.
  • The Giants‘ interview with Baylor head coach Matt Rhule has been scheduled for Tuesday, Schefter hears. After that, they’ll meet with Patriots OC Josh McDaniels on Wednesday. Both interviews will take place in New Jersey.
  • At least 4 NFL teams have expressed interest in former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur as an offensive coordinator, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) hears. Shurmur has also heard from “a college team or two.” Shurmur was fired by the Giants after amassing a 9-23 record over the course of two disappointing seasons.

Panthers To Interview Kevin Stefanski

Add another name to the list. ESPN’s Dan Graziano reports (via Twitter) that Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is scheduled to interview for the Panthers head coaching vacancy next week. The interview is tentatively set for Thursday, although that could change if Minnesota tops New Orleans tomorrow.

Stefanski has served in a variety of roles for the Vikings since joining the organization back in 2006, including stints as the tight ends coach, running backs coach, and quarterbacks coach. The 37-year-old was named interim offensive coordinator following the firing of John DeFilippo during the 2018 season, and he earned the full-time gig prior to the 2019 campaign.

During Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points. The coach led the trio of Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, and Mike Boone to top-six rankings in rushing yards and touchdowns, and he also helped quarterback Kirk Cousins have one of the best seasons of his career.

We previously heard that Stefanski was set to interview for the Browns head coaching gig, and NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero passes along (via Twitter) that the coach will indeed interview with Cleveland this week. Stefanski was a finalist for the Browns job last year.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports (via Twitter) that Panther interim head coach Perry Fewell is scheduled to meet with the team on Wednesday. As our head coaching tracker shows, Stefanski and Fewell are two of five coaches who will interview for the gig, a grouping that also includes Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, and former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule has also been mentioned as a potential candidate, but no interview has been scheduled.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Black Monday Rumors: McDaniels, Bieniemy, Browns

The Giants have fired head coach Pat Shumur, the Browns have fired head coach Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland GM John Dorsey‘s fate is up in the air, Bruce Allen is out with the Redskins, Ron Rivera looks like he’s in, and we have a lot more to pass along:

  • The Giants are rumored to be targeting Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, but they have requested an interview with Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (via Twitter) that the Panthers have also requested a summit with Bieniemy, a branch of the fruitful Andy Reid coaching tree whom Reid feels is ready for an HC job.
  • We heard this morning that the Browns have requested an interview with Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, and they also want to interview Ravens OC Greg Roman, per Schefter (via Twitter). Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal tweets that Cleveland is expected to interview Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski again. Stefanski was a finalist for the Browns’ HC job last year before they elected to hire Kitchens.
  • Schefter says the Browns have asked permission to interview 49ers DC Robert Saleh (Twitter link), and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says the team plans to interview Mike McCarthy as well (Twitter link). Cleveland had an interview scheduled with McCarthy last year, but by that time, the club had already zeroed in on Kitchens, so the interview never happened. McCarthy and Dorsey worked together in Green Bay, so Dorsey may be rooting for a McCarthy hire.
  • In addition to the Browns, the Giants and Panthers have also requested interviews with McDaniels, as Schefter tweets.
  • Despite recent reports indicating that he wants to stay in Baltimore, Ravens DC Don “Wink” Martindale is generating a great deal of HC buzz, as Rapoport tweets. If he is hired, Martindale would want to pluck LSU passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Joe Brady from the collegiate ranks to be his OC. If you’ve watched college football this year, you can’t blame Martindale for that choice.
  • Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone will meet with owner Shad Khan tomorrow to discuss his fate, as NFL insider Adam Caplan tweets.