Robert Saleh

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.

Browns To Interview Ed Dodds For GM Opening

We’ve got our first known candidate for the Browns’ general manager vacancy. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that the organization has requested permission to interview Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds. Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets that the Colts have granted the Browns permission to interview the executive.

Perhaps even more notably, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that Browns head coaching candidate (and current 49ers defensive coordinator) Robert Saleh showed interest in being paired with Dodds in Cleveland. Saleh and Dodds both worked together during their stint in Seattle. Rapoport adds that

Dodds was considered one of the top scouts in the NFL during his 10 seasons in Seattle. During his time with the Seahawks, he served in a variety of roles, including senior personnel executive. Dodds joined the Colts back in 2017, and he was promoted to assistant GM the following year.

We heard earlier today that the organization was starting to ramp up their efforts to find a replacement for John Dorsey, who the team parted ways with in late December. While the order of operations may sound a bit weird, the Browns had always planned to complete their head coaching search before hiring a GM.

Dodds is the first known contender for the GM opening, and it sounds like the Browns organization has an affinity for former Seahawks executives. We previously heard that Seattle’s co-directors of player personnel, Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, are two well-respected executives who could emerge as leading candidates for the GM gig. Rapoport tweets that the duo could also be paired with Saleh, as could 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters.

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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.

Latest On Browns’ HC Search

Following their Thursday interview with Mike McCarthy, Browns brass will head to Santa Clara, Calif., to meet with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link).

Saleh’s interview has now been scheduled for Saturday. The third-year San Francisco DC has never interviewed for a head coaching post and is thus far not connected to the other two coaching vacancies. However, one way the Browns may be considering going is a staff featuring multiple 49ers assistants.

Cleveland is also interested in 49ers offensive assistants Mike McDaniel and Mike LaFleur, each a Kyle Shanahan lieutenant at multiple stops. Saleh appears to be the San Francisco candidate the Browns are zeroing in on, but if the team hires the fiery DC, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that either LaFleur or McDaniel would then be a candidate to become the Browns’ offensive coordinator. HC interviews with McDaniel and LaFleur are believed to be on the docket, though it’s not known yet when they will occur.

Both were with Shanahan in Cleveland in 2014. Shanahan spent one season as the Browns’ OC and since took LaFleur and McDaniel to Atlanta and San Francisco. They serve as the 49ers’ pass- and run-game coordinators, respectively.

Shanahan blocked Mike LaFleur from joining brother Matt in Green Bay last year but let assistant Rich Scangarello defect to Denver because the Broncos were offering play-calling responsibilities. With Saleh being a defensive-minded coach, the Browns would then hand over their play-calling reins to whomever they hire as OC.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ Head Coaching Search

The Browns’ GM search is underway. On Tuesday, the Browns fired John Dorsey (or, mutually agreed to part ways with the veteran exec, depending on who you ask).

Before that, the Browns axed first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens. After that, the Browns wasted little time in requesting interviews. Here’s the latest on the names being considered for the job:

  • 49ers’ run game coordinator Mike McDaniel is likely to interview with the Browns, a source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). No date has been set yet, but McDaniel figures to be one of three SF coaches to get a look. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and passing-game coordinator Mike LaFleur will also reportedly be interviewed this weekend.
  • In addition to that Niners trio, the Browns have also requested an interview with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, as Schefter tweets. It’s shaping up to be a busy bye week for Bienemy, who has also drawn interest from the Panthers and Giants.

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.

Panthers Notes: Newton, HC Candidates, Bradberry

Panthers QB Cam Newton will undergo foot surgery, and as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes, Newton is expected to be fully ready and able by March. Rapoport says Carolina has not ruled out retaining Newton — not that the team would publicly say anything different — but the expectation remains that the Panthers will look to trade the former No. 1 overall pick,

The QB market may be unusually robust in 2020, and Newton may be the most desirable piece. The Panthers will not give Newton away, but if they “get a large deal to make it worth their while,” they will pull the trigger.

Now for more out of Charlotte:

  • Of course, what the Panthers do with Newton may depend on who they hire as their permanent head coach. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reiterates his view that the Panthers will seek an offensive-minded or QB-driven coach, and what that person thinks of Newton, Kyle Allen, and Will Grier could impact the club’s offseason plans in a big way.
  • In the same piece linked above, Rapoport suggests that owner David Tepper will of course be on the lookout for a top-flight coordinator and someone who is unafraid to embrace analytics, but he suggests that Tepper’s top priority will be a strong manager of people. RapSheet names ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy, 49ers DC Robert Saleh, and Ravens OC Greg Roman as just a few of the possibilities.
  • Even if the Panthers retain GM Marty Hurney — which is not a guarantee — Adam Schefter of ESPN.com says Tepper, the former minority owner of the Steelers, could look to bring familiar faces from Pittsburgh to Carolina. Tepper plans to name an assistant general manager to focus on pro personnel evaluation and a vice president of football operations, and sources say he could be eyeing Steelers GM Kevin Colbert — whose contract is up at the end of the season — and/or vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan.
  • The Panthers have 28 players eligible for free agency this offseason, and Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic examines the decisions that the team will have to make with respect to a few of those players. The club just signed LB Shaq Thompson to a four-year extension, and Rodrigue’s source says the Panthers have made CB James Bradberry their next top priority.

NFC Notes: Packers, Clark, Lynch, Giants

The Packers made the surprising decision to cut Mike Daniels earlier today, and GM Brian Gutekunst confirmed that the club did try to trade Daniels first (via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). It sounds as if Green Bay made some headway in trade talks, but the talks broke down over the last couple of weeks. Gutekunst also mentioned Daniels’ foot injury as a factor in the decision.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • The decision to cut Daniels has opened the door for the Packers to sign NT Kenny Clark to a lucrative extension, as Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Silverstein suggests (via Twitter) that such a deal could happen at the end of the season.
  • Matt Barrows of The Athletic suggests that, although John Lynch is the 49ers‘ GM, he is primarily in charge of the defense, while head coach Kyle Shanahan picks the offensive talent. And Lynch has missed on a few major decisions on the defensive side of the ball, so if that unit should struggle again, not only will defensive coordinator Robert Saleh be in danger of losing his job, but Lynch could be as well.
  • The Giants worked out free agent safeties Johnathan Cyprien and Tre Boston several days ago, but Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com does not believe Big Blue is going to pay for a starting-caliber safety at this point (Twitter link). He thinks the club was simply doing its due diligence.
  • The Panthers will give Daryl Williams some reps at left tackle and left guard in training camp, per GM Marty Hurney (via Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic on Twitter). Williams signed a one-year deal in March to remain with Carolina, but Hurney is said to prefer Taylor Moton at right tackle — where Williams has spent most of his time as a pro — and the club drafted LT Greg Little in the second round this year. So if Williams is to earn the big FA contract that he missed out on this year, he may have to do so at an unfamiliar spot.
  • The Buccaneers have placed Jason Pierre-Paul on the active/non-football injury list, as James Palmer of the NFL Network tweets. Although a player on the active/NFI list can be activated from that list at any time before the start of the season, that will almost certainly not happen with JPP, who is expected to miss at least a chunk of the regular season.