CLEVELAND, Ohio — Browns ownership is leading the coaching search this time around, but Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta is running the process, a source tells cleveland.com. The ownership group includes Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and their son-in-law JW Johnson, the Executive Vice President of the team.
Last year, Browns GM John Dorsey, who was let go on Tuesday, led the search and beat out DePodesta in the hire of Freddie Kitchens over Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who’s a candidate again this year.
Everyone in the organization liked Stefanski last year, including Dorsey, the source said. But he opted for the inexperienced Kitchens, who was fired Sunday night after going 6-10 in his lone season and running a dysfunctional program.
As reported on Tuesday, DePodesta will not take over as head of football operations. He lives in San Diego and comes in a few days a week, and has no plans to be in Cleveland full-time at this time.
The Browns left the GM position open during this coaching search so that the new coach has some say in his top personnel exec. If Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels takes the job, he’ll likely want to be paired with his own man such as David Ziegler or Nick Caserio, both Patriots personnel execs who played football with him at John Carroll University. Former Browns personnel exec Scott Pioli would also be an option if McDaniels takes the job, a source told cleveland.com.
If Mike McCarthy gets the job, Browns assistant general manager Eliot Wolf would be a strong candidate for a promotion to general manager, a league source told cleveland.com. McCarthy will get the first interview, on Thursday. The Browns will interview 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in Santa Clara, Calif., over the weekend, and the Browns are intrigued by him. He would have to bring in a strong offensive coordinator to sell the Browns on his hiring.
Despite a report that the Browns are expected to interview 49ers offensive assistants Mike McDaniel or Mike LaFleur while they’re out in the Bay Area, nothing is scheduled at this time. Both would also be offensive coordinator candidates if Saleh gets the job. Both were with the Browns in 2014 under 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who was offensive coordinator at the time.
The Browns can also interview Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman this week because he’s on a playoff bye.
The Haslams also love former Vice President of Player Personnel Andrew Berry, now the Eagles VP of Football operations, and would like to bring him back if it makes sense with the new coach. Berry worked with DePodesta here before, and the two would be closely aligned.
Other head coach candidates for the Browns are Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.