Vikings Rumors

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.

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Vikings Hire Gary Kubiak As OC

The Vikings are bumping Gary Kubiak up to the offensive coordinator position, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Last year, Kubiak served as an assistant head coach and offensive advisor. 

Kubiak will take over for Kevin Stefanski, who left to become the Browns’ head coach earlier this offseason. During Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points. With ample experience and knowhow, Kubiak will look to build on that.

Kubiak hooked on with the Vikes in January of last year, bringing him back to the sidelines as something other than a head coach since 2014, when he was the Ravens’ OC. Prior to that, he was in talks to return to Denver as their offensive coordinator, before those discussions went sideways.

As a head coach, Kubiak had a career 82-75 mark, including a 21-11 record across his two seasons with the Broncos. In his first year as the Broncos’ HC, Denver won Super Bowl 50 with a memorable win over the Panthers.

The Vikings fell short of their Super Bowl goal in 2019, but Kubiak will have plenty to work with on the offensive side of the ball. The team’s backfield trio of Dalvin CookAlexander Mattison, and Mike Boone finished in the top six in rushing yards and touchdowns last year. Meanwhile, quarterback Kirk Cousins enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career. Kubiak was a big part of that strategy and in 2020 he’ll have a chance to do everything his way while maintaining consistency.

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Vikings Won't Retain WRs Coach Drew Petzing

  • Vikings receivers coach Drew Petzing won’t be back with the team next season, reports Goessling (via Twitter). Petzing had spent the past six seasons with the organization, spending time with wideouts, running backs, and quarterbacks.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/21/20

We’ll keep track of today’s reserve/futures deals here:

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

Tennessee Titans

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.

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Fine Updates: Simmons, Fisher, Williams, Bosa

The NFL will not fine Titans defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons for conduct during Tennessee’s 28-12 victory in the divisional playoff round, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. After the contest, Ravens offensive guard Marshal Yanda accused Simmons of spitting on him during the contest. Per Hensley, the NFL found no evidence to substantiate those claims.

For what it’s worth, Simmons did not deny spitting on Yanda when he was asked about it on Wednesday. Had the NFL prooved that Simmons had indeed spit in his opponent’s face, he would have been subject to an unsportsmanlike conduct fine of $14,037.

A few other players were unable to avoid hits to their checkbooks:

  • Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher went viral online after he celebrated by pouring beer over himself during Kansas City’s divisional round victory over the Texans. While the NFL shared Fisher’s celebration on its official Twitter account, it appears the NFL’s marketers and executors of the codes of conduct are not on the same page. Fisher was fined $14,037 by the league on Saturday, when the league announced this week’s round of fines, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
  • Fisher was not the lone Chiefs player to receive a fine for a celebration, running back Damien Williams received a $10,527 fine for taunting, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. After he scored his third touchdown in last week’s game, he placed the ball directly in front of a Texan defensive lineman, which cost the team a fifteen-yard penalty and now will cost Williams more than ten thousand dollars.
  • Defensive end Nick Bosa was fined $28,025 for an illegal blindside block in the 49ers 27-10 victory over the Vikings in last week’s divisional round, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. Normally a defensive player would not be subject to such a fine, but after his defensive teammate, Richard Sherman, intercepted one of Kirk Cousins passes, Bosa got overzealous in a block on offensive tackle Brian O’Neill that forced O’Neill to leave the game for a couple of series.

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/15/20

Today’s reserve/futures deals:

Baltimore Ravens

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

  • DB DaShaun Amos

Houston Texans

Minnesota Vikings

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

NFL Reserve/Futures Contracts: 1/13/20

Here are today’s reserve/futures deals:

Houston Texans

Minnesota Vikings

Browns Eyeing George Edwards, Wade Phillips For DC?

The Browns got their new head coach by hiring former Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski away from Minnesota, and they may not be finished raiding the Vikings’ staff. There have been rumblings that Gary Kubiak and/or Klint Kubiak could join Stefanski in Cleveland, and Vikings DC George Edwards could do the same.

We heard on Sunday that Edwards is unlikely to return to Minnesota in 2020, and Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune says a Stefanski-Edwards reunion could happen in Ohio (Twitter link). Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com says Edwards wants to go somewhere he can call plays, which he cannot do with the Vikings since head coach Mike Zimmer handles those responsibilities (Twitter link).

Edwards, 52, has been in the NFL in some capacity every season since 1998. He was the Redskins’ defensive coordinator in 2003, the Bills’ from 2010-11, and he has been the Vikings’ DC since 2014. He’s also served as a positional coach with several different clubs, including the Browns in 2004.

In addition to Edwards, the Browns may also be interested in Wade Phillips, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. We recently heard that Phillips, 72, would not be returning to the Rams in 2020, but his vast experience could be appealing to Stefanski, just as it was to Sean McVay when he became a first-time head coach in 2017.

In 2019, the Rams allowed 22.8 points per game and 339.6 yards per contest, putting them in the middle of the pack in both categories. But Phillips, who has plenty of head coaching experience in addition to his years as a defensive coordinator with multiple clubs, remains a respected defensive mind and would command the type of respect that Cleveland’s locker room could use.

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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.

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