Head football coaches like to run the show. In Cleveland, the head football coach won’t be.
As explained by Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository, new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski showed during his interview a willingness to yield to certain expectations of part-time chief strategy office Paul DePodesta, including having someone from the analytics group wearing a headset and having access to the coaching staff on game days. Stefanski also agreed to owner Jimmy Haslam’s desire to engage in hours-long meetings with his head coach the day after games.
Dustin Fox of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland added that the front office expects the head coach to “turn in game plans to the owner and analytics department by Friday, and to attend an end-of-week analytics meeting to discuss their plan.”
That was OK with Stefanski, or he wouldn’t have gotten the job. It’s unclear whether it would have been OK with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. By all indications and objective measurements, McDaniels is far more accomplished and experienced than Stefanski, who first became offensive coordinator late in the 2018 regular season and has only one full year in the job — a year that was necessarily undermined by the presence of assistant head coach/offensive consultant Gary Kubiak, who drew strong praise from coach Mike Zimmer as the best thing that had happened to the team since Zimmer arrived as head coach.
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that the job came down to Stefanski and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Given that the Browns were determined to make a hire on Sunday, the truth in hindsight could be that they were ready to hire the loser of their round-of-eight showdown. Which, in hindsight, would make this decision fit well within the team’s recent history of ricocheting from one bad decision to the next.
It’s unknown whether Saleh would have taken the job if offered. On one hand, once the window opens it may not stay that way. On the other hand, the 49ers have a defense built to last, which means other opportunities may come along for Saleh that won’t entail excessive intrusions into his authority as coach of the team.
It’s quite possible that the Browns planned to hire a coach on Sunday because they guessed that the Vikings would lose, and that the hire would be the guy DePodesta wanted to hire last year. As noted yesterday, if hiring DePodesta’s preferred coach gets everyone in Cleveland on the same page, so be it. If it fails, however, the part-time chief strategy officer should have the same accountability as a full-time member of the football organization, whose jobs routinely hinge on whether or not the team thrives or fails.