Paul DePodesta

Browns Notes: Stefanski, DePodesta

Recently, there were rumblings that candidates in the Browns coaching search had to agree to turn in game plans to owner Jimmy Haslam and the team’s analytics department. That won’t be the case, new head coach Kevin Stefanski says.

It’s not true,’’ he said (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). “I like that report. That was a good one. It’s silly season for that type of stuff. I understand that. But, to me, analytics — I can’t say it enough — it’s a tool, it’s a tool that helps.’’

Stefanski told the Browns that he is willing to use analytics, which may have helped his cause, but Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta says his willingness to use the stats was not the deciding factor in the hire.

Here’s more from Cleveland:

  • Curious about DePodesta’s role in Cleveland and why he performs his job while living in San Diego? This piece from Cleveland.com’s Scott Patsko tackles many of the questions surrounding the former MLB exec. When it comes to the draft, DePodesta says he’ll just be one voice in the figurative room and not the final decision-maker. “I’m not going to pick the players, but I am going to try and make sure that the players we do pick align with our vision of what we believe is a winning franchise,” he said. “My charge is not to watch tape and say, ‘Oh, man, this guy’s got great feet.’ We’ve got scouts who are way better and way more qualified than I am to do that. But when we come down to make a selection, it is my role to say, ‘Okay, are we making a decision here that actually aligns with our way?’”
  • In 2019, first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens refused to turn play-calling duties over to Todd Monken, even though Monken was the more experienced coach. Stefanski, who is still searching for his OC, says he’s undecided as to whether he’ll handle the play-calling. “I have had really good conversations with a bunch of head coaches, some that have called the plays, some that have not,’’ Stefanski said (via Cabot). “Again, I am all about what is best for the Cleveland Browns. If that is me calling the plays, great. If it’s not, I am fine with that too.”

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.

Browns Notes: GM Search, DePodesta, McCarthy, Saleh, Daboll

While the primary focus in Cleveland remains on their search for a new head coach, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Browns could have their eyes on a pair of front-office employees with the Seahawks for their general managerial opening. Via Garafolo’s report, Seattle’s co-directors of player personnel, Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, are two well-respected executives that could emerge as leading candidates.

Here’s more notes from the Browns organization:

  • NFL.com’s Ian Rapaport noted that two head coaching candidates in the Browns search that align with Kirchner and Fitterer are former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. McCarthy’s connection to the two Seattle executives is unclear, but Saleh started his coaching career in Seattle and has built his defensive scheme upon the Seahawks 4-3 at the peak of the “Legion of Boom.”
  • The Browns pushed back their interview with Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for Cleveland’s head coaching position, according to Ian Rapaport of NFL.com. Daboll remains a candidate, but since the Bills were eliminated from the playoffs in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Texans, the team decided to delay his interview to this week so he could meet more of the team’s current front office staff.
  • Browns chief strategist Paul DePodesta has been the center of a lot of coverage surrounding the power struggle in Cleveland. The onetime assistant general manager of the Oakland Athletics is spearheading the Browns head coach search, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, but is not under contract with the team beyond next week. With that said, DePodesta is still wanted in Cleveland and the team may want to extend the executive at the same time of the team’s general manager and head coaching hires to put the organization on the same page.

Browns’ Next GM Will Come From Outside Organization

The Browns are planning to retain chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, and Eliot Wolf remains in place as assistant GM. But the franchise plans to look outside its current power structure to find its next GM.

Jimmy Haslam indicated Thursday that John Dorsey‘s replacement will be an outside hire, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (on Twitter). The Browns plan to first hire their head coach, which will determine where they go with the GM role, Haslam added (via ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter). However, the Browns’ new head coach will not have final say over which GM candidate is hired, Cabot notes.

Cleveland’s new HC and GM will each report to Haslam, which was the setup when Hue Jackson and Sashi Brown were in power. Haslam added that the GM will oversee the 53-man roster, which flies in the face of rumors that the new Browns HC would obtain more power. The Browns’ new HC must be more analytically inclined, with Haslam indicating (via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal) a “tremendous opportunity” exists for the Browns to be better than they were in this area under Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens.

Wolf will remain in his assistant GM role, per Haslam. This poses an interesting setup, given a new regime’s imminent arrival. The longtime Packers exec joined former Green Bay coworker Dorsey last year and has been a GM candidate in the past. DePodesta will run the coaching search, but the former MLB GM-turned-fifth-year Browns exec will not rise in the team’s front office hierarchy.

Paul’s’ job will stay exactly the same as it is now,” Haslam said, via Ulrich. “He is in charge of strategy. He reports to ownership. Nothing will change. … We think Paul is really good at this type of position [in the searches]. If you think about it, all he has done his whole adult life is gather data to help make good decisions, so we think he is ideally suited to lead this process.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Paul DePodesta To Run Browns Coaching Search

The Browns’ head coaching search will be run by chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Apparently, this wasn’t established until just recently. Up until now, candidates were receiving mixed messages about who was directing the search.

[RELATED: Browns Considering Mike McCarthy-Eliot Wolf Pairing]

After firing head coach Freddie Kitchens and parting ways with GM John Dorsey, the Browns’ power structure was thrown into flux. DePodesta, it seems, will be leading the charge for owner Jimmy Haslam and it’s not hard to imagine the team’s next GM reporting directly to him.

Mike McCarthy will be the Browns’ first HC interview. The team is mulling the possibility of hiring McCarthy and elevating assistant GM Eliot Wolf, which would reunite the two after a long run together in Green Bay.

Other candidates on the Browns’ radar include Josh McDanielsEric Bieniemy, Greg Roman, Kevin Stefanski and 49ers assistants Robert SalehMike McDaniel and Matt LaFleur. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, meanwhile, turned down the opportunity to interview with the Browns.

Browns Considering Mike McCarthy-Eliot Wolf Pairing

Despite John Dorsey and the Browns parting ways, assistant GM Eliot Wolf remains in his position. And the Browns are considering pairing him with another former Packers coworker.

Mike McCarthy will be the Browns’ first HC interview, with Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer noting the longtime Green Bay coach will meet with the Browns on Thursday. The Browns, who have gone through numerous front office structures under Jimmy Haslam, are considering a McCarthy-Wolf power structure, Cabot adds.

Wolf was in Green Bay for each of McCarthy’s nine playoff appearances as Packers coach, working with the Packers from 2004-17. The final four of those years featured Wolf as either the Packers’ director of player personnel or director of football operations. The second-generation NFL executive left for Cleveland in 2018, when former Packers exec Dorsey joined as Browns GM. The Browns appear to be considering a promotion for the son of Hall of Fame exec Ron Wolf. Eliot Wolf has interviewed for GM jobs in the past, and he may be back on the radar — despite the latest upheaval at Browns headquarters.

McCarthy, 56, has already interviewed with the Panthers and will meet with the Giants this weekend. He was on the Browns’ radar during the 2019 hiring period but did not meet with team brass. The Browns ended the 2010s with seven head coaches and are obviously hoping for some semblance of stability entering the next decade.

Several other candidates are on the Browns’ HC radar. Josh McDaniels, Eric Bieniemy, Greg Roman, Kevin Stefanski and 49ers assistants Robert Saleh, Mike McDaniel and Matt LaFleur. Baylor head coach Matt Rhule turned down the opportunity to interview with the Browns.

Cleveland’s next head coach may need to make a greater commitment to analytics, with Cabot adding that Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta is planning to incorporate more analytical concepts into the team’s game plans. This blueprint did not appear to be a hit with Dorsey or Freddie Kitchens, with a source informing Cabot it only complicated matters further for an “in over his head” Kitchens.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ Front Office

The Browns’ disappointing season produced the firing of Freddie Kitchens and prompted Jimmy Haslam to approach John Dorsey about stripping his power. That led to the constantly retooling franchise having another GM vacancy. The Haslams confirmed the 2019 Browns’ underachievement helped lead to Dorsey departing.

While John helped greatly improve our team’s talent and we are excited about the core players on our roster, we fully recognized that our team did not meet its potential on or off the field and additional changes in leadership give us the best opportunity for success in the future,” Jimmy and Dee Haslam said in a statement. “As the role of the general manager continues to evolve in this league we felt there were areas that needed to be reassessed. Over the last 48 hours, we’ve had discussion with John about his role but could not come to an agreement on a position that would enable him to remain with the organization.”

The Browns have now gone through five GMs or de facto GMs during Haslam’s seven-plus-year tenure. They will be looking for No. 6, along with a seventh head coach under current ownership.

Here is the latest on the state of the Browns’ front office:

  • It is not certain Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta will survive a second regime change during his tenure, but that looks to be the case. Former football operations boss Sashi Brown‘s right-hand man, DePodesta stayed on during Dorsey’s run and is now playing a key role helping Jimmy Haslam find the Browns’ next head coach. The former MLB GM is taking a “very heavy hand” in Cleveland’s latest coaching search, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link).
  • DePodesta, however, is not necessarily in charge. The fourth-year executive is not currently running the football operation, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This does beg the question as to who exactly is running things at this point.
  • Top responsibility may now fall on assistant GM Eliot Wolf. Although Wolf came aboard shortly after Dorsey did and worked with Dorsey in Green Bay as well, the second-generation NFL exec is still a part of Cleveland’s front office, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. That could certainly change soon, once a new GM or head coach with GM powers arrives in Berea.
  • Dorsey received a nice exit package from the Browns. The two-time NFL GM will walk away with two years’ severance, according to Pelissero (on Twitter). This marks the second time in three years Dorsey will be on the market, with the Chiefs having fired him during the summer of 2017.

Browns Request Interview With Josh McDaniels

The Browns, who fired head coach Freddie Kitchens yesterday, have requested an interview with Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says McDaniels is the Browns’ top choice (Twitter link).

Of course, McDaniels’ brief and disastrous tenure as the Broncos’ head coach from 2009-10 and his jilting of the Colts after he agreed to become their head coach in February 2018 are well-known. But he remains one of the most respected offensive minds in the game, and he has once again become a popular head coaching candidate.

Cabot writes in a full-length piece that the Browns’ job is attractive to McDaniels, an Ohio native. The question is whether McDaniels would want to work within the Cleveland front office as it’s currently structured. We heard yesterday that GM John Dorsey may be on the hot seat, and while the report of Kitchens’ firing indicated that Dorsey was safe, that may not be the case.

Indeed, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports believes owner Jimmy Haslam will, in fact, alter the executive layer of his team, and he thinks the dynamic between chief strategist Paul DePodesta and Dorsey will change (Twitter link). Cabot confirms that there is a disconnect between DePodesta and the analytics side of the operation and Dorsey and the football side, and that disconnect would obviously need to be resolved prior to McDaniels — or anyone else — agreeing to come on board.

Because of his desirability, McDaniels can afford to be particular and can largely dictate the makeup of a team’s front office. He is likely to want a lot of authority over personnel matters, and he may want to bring current Pats exec and popular GM candidate Nick Caserio along with him.

Meanwhile, Browns assistant coaches met with team brass this morning, per Cabot. They were not fired but were given permission to seek other jobs.

Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, another top candidate for NFL head coaching jobs, is not interested in the Cleveland gig, per Michael Lomabrdi of The Athletic (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns GM John Dorsey On Hot Seat?

We heard earlier this morning that the Browns are doing their due diligence on potential replacements for first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens. That report was not particularly surprising, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has since dropped a much more intriguing nugget. Per Florio, Cleveland GM John Dorsey may also be on the hot seat.

Florio’s sources have indicated that “questions have emerged” regarding Dorsey’s future in Cleveland, with one source saying the GM’s job is “not completely safe.” It still sounds more likely than not that Dorsey will be back in 2020, but it’s nonetheless notable that ownership is even considering a change.

After all, Dorsey came to the team in December 2017 and has infused a great deal of talent into the roster in a short period of time. In some respects, he may even be a victim of his own success. If you had told most people that the Browns, who have almost always been a doormat since their rebirth in 1999, would have posted at least six wins in 2018 and 2019 after finishing 0-16 in 2017, those people likely would have said that Dorsey has things headed in the right direction.

But given the expectations that came with Dorsey’s high-profile acquisitions over the past couple of years, the team’s 6-9 record in 2019 is an abject disappointment. And he was the one who spearheaded the Kitchens hire, and he also forced former OC Todd Haley onto former HC Hue Jackson, which created a disastrous relationship.

Plus, a GM is not just a fantasy football player. He must not only accumulate talent but also determine how that talent will complement each other and how personalities will mesh. Obviously, Cleveland has been a disaster in that regard this year.

Florio says chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta could be a factor in Dorsey’s fate. There were rumblings earlier in the year that DePodesta could be elevated over Dorsey, and while that didn’t happen, current rumors suggest that if DePodesta were willing to relocate to Cleveland on a full-time basis, he could end up with much more power. Or, ownership could fire Dorsey and let DePodesta choose his successor.

Even if the smart money is on Dorsey staying and Kitchens going, this is clearly a situation worth monitoring, and one that seemed completely unrealistic at the start of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eagles Hire Andrew Berry

The Eagles and general manager Howie Roseman have made an addition to the club’s front office, hiring former Browns executive Andrew Berry as vice president of football operations, according to Ian Rapoport and Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Berry joined Cleveland’s front office in 2016 after ex-GM Sashi Brown hired him as vice president of player personnel. He’s now being hired away by the Eagles for what is considered a promotion, tweets Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Berry had reportedly drawn interest from several other teams in the past, per Rapoport and Kinkhabwala, but the Eagles make sense as a fit given Cleveland and Philadelphia’s shared interest in analytics.

A Harvard graduate, Berry first entered the NFL in 2009 as a scouting assistant in the Colts’ front office. He was eventually promoted through a number of roles, and ultimately served as Indianapolis’ pro scouting coordinator from 2012-16 before leaving for Cleveland.

Although Berry is departing the Browns’ front office, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta is expected to remain in his current role, per Cabot (Twitter link).