Updated: Feb 7
By Chandler Adams
NFL Analyst @ChandlerAdamss
"Hard to project exactly how Stefanski will do, but he has three things Cleveland desperately needed out of a head coach: he's smart, organized and good with people."
That quote is from Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. What do the Browns desperately need? A leader. By all accounts it seems they have finally found one.
Let me start out by saying this is not Freddie Kitchens 2.0. Freddie is a great guy and has a great football acumen, but the moment seemed to engulf him last year. Trick plays on 3rd and 1, numerous red zone fails, and not having a proper game-plan really held this Browns team back. Now, with a still talented offense they bring in a Stefanski who flipped the Vikings around in 2019. A look at Stefanski's resume will impress you quite a bit:
Penn (2005) Assistant director of football operations
Minnesota Vikings (2006–2008) Assistant to the head coach
Minnesota Vikings (2009–2013) Assistant quarterbacks coach
Minnesota Vikings (2014–2015) Tight ends coach
Minnesota Vikings (2016) Running backs coach
Minnesota Vikings (2017–2018) Quarterbacks coach
Minnesota Vikings (2018) Interim offensive coordinator
Minnesota Vikings (2019) Offensive coordinator
Cleveland Browns (2020) Head coach
You might think that he doesn't have much experience in a prominent role, which is true, but the fact that he has stayed within the Vikings organization with so much turnover is something of note.
The big question now is, who does he bring with him? Andrew Berry (Harvard grad) is almost a certainty at the GM spot. Paul DePodesta, Berry and Stefanski would be the first time that the Browns had a similar vision from HC-FO personnel. Analytics is the new name of the Browns, and I love it. If somebody fears analytics, also know as "football guys," they likely just fear what they don't understand.
Offensive Coordinator Candidates
Some possible names that have been thrown out there as OC candidates for Stefanski are Mike McDaniel, Mike LaFleur and the Kubiaks (Gary and Klint).
Mike McDaniel is currently the WR coach of the 49ers and the run game coordinator. Yes, you read that correctly. That is something that almost never happens, and that I've certainty never witnessed. Andrew Hawkins, former Browns WR and co-host of the ThomaHawk pod, has raved about the genius that McDaniel is. Saying that he learned more in one year with McDaniel than he did in all of his years in the NFL. (John Kaufman and I had PFF analyst Brendan Leister on our podcast, and the three of us discussed McDaniel as a possible OC candidate, and much more. Click here to listen to that episode, and be sure to subscribe to get more great content from guests like Brendan!) McDaniel has already been in Cleveland once as the WR's coach under Shanahan in 2014
Mike LaFleur is currently the passing game coordinator of the 49ers. He was also on the Browns staff under Shanahan in 2014 as an offensive intern. Where both of these hires can go wrong is Shanahan can, and has before, veto their opportunity to leave. If they were to be calling plays that might be different, but all signs point to Stefanski calling plays next year.
Gary Kubiak is another target for the Browns OC job. Albert Breer reports:
"Interesting figure now post-Browns hire: Gary Kubiak. The Vikings assistant HC worked in lockstep with Kevin Stefanski in building the offense. Does Mike Zimmer try to make him OC? Does Stefanski try to bring him to Cleveland? Does he want either of those results?"
That speaks for itself. Getting an experienced coach like Kubiak could prove huge for Stefanski and the Browns.
Klint Kubiak, son of Gary Kubiak, is another name being floated around for the vacancy. What does Klint bring? Legacy, experience under his father, and Kirk Cousin's career-best year. Oh, and a Super Bowl. This one would have the most risk behind it, but if Kubiak and Stefanski are as close as reports say, don't be surprised to see this one happen.
Defensive Coordinator Candidates
The rumors on this front have been nonexistent. No leaks as to where Stefanski might go with this one. However, if it were up to me, Wade Phillips should be the #1 target of every NFL team in need of a DC. Phillips has experience as a head coach, experience in quickly turning around defenses and is very well respected in the NFL circle. Phillips could be what Gary Kubiak was for Stefanski but on the other side of the ball. He would undoubtedly him with the little things head coaches have to do that you don't see as an assistant: schedules, travel, game-plans, training camps, etc.
We can't be certain about what will happen, but we do know this: the Browns are finally listening to Paul DePodesta. Depo is often referred to as the smartest man in the room. He uses analytics to make well educated guesses, which is all football is, guesses. You can either use statistical information to take a calculated risk, or you can trust your gut. I can't tell you which way to feel, but I definitely tend to side with the former.
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