The Cleveland Browns search for their next head coach took an interesting turn on Tuesday.
Kevin Stefanski, who up until midnight on Monday was under contract with the Minnesota Vikings, is reportedly heading back to Cleveland for a second interview, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
Kevin Stefanski was spotted heading back to Cleveland today, and sources say it’s for a second interview with the #Browns. They interviewed him last week for their head coaching job. He's still a leading candidate for #Vikings OC job, too, but his contract is up.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 8, 2019
General manager John Dorsey and members of the search committee interviewed Stefanski last Thursday, but since he was still under contract with the Vikings, that interview was for the head coaching position.
But now that Stefanski is free of his obligations with Minnesota, the Browns can talk with him about joining the staff in any capacity they like - leading to speculation that Stefanski might be in line for the offensive coordinator role with the yet-to-be-determined head coach.
And that has led to further speculation that if Stefanski is open to making a lateral move, it could mean that the Browns are planning to name Freddie Kitchens as the next head coach. Cleveland interviewed Kitchens on Monday and reportedly also spent time doing some additional homework on him, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
The #Browns do not appear to have made a decision on their next head coach, but worth noting: OC Freddie Kitchens is getting strong consideration for the head job. They were making calls to people who’ve worked with him as of last night, another sign he’s right in the mix.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 8, 2019
Got all that?
As for Stefanski, he took over the offensive coordinator role in Minnesota in Week 15 of last season after the Vikings fired John DeFilippo. According to clevelandbrowns.com:
The Vikings found immediate success with Stefanski calling plays, piling up 418 yards of offense and a season-high 41 points in a rout of the Miami Dolphins. Before that game, Minnesota cleared 100 rushing yards just once in the past seven weeks but finished with a season-high 220 against the Dolphins. Minnesota had another solid offensive showing the next week against the Lions, scoring 27 points and compiling 340 yards of offense before stumbling in the season finale against the Bears. “He’s a big-time believer in it being about the players, not the plays,” tight end Kyle Rudolph told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “He told me at one point during the game last week that he can call whatever he wants because he has the confidence that we’re going to go out and execute. That’s what we’ve talked about all along. It’s not about the plays being called. It’s about the players going out and execute the plays that are being called.”
If that quote from Rudolph is true, then it sounds like there is a lot to like about Stefanski. The hallmark of a successful coach is their ability to put players in a position to succeed, rather than having an ego so big that they wind forcing players to run plays that are not suited to their talents.
The Browns have yet to make an official decision on the next head coach, but a little more than a week into the process they are sure keeping everyone interested in the process.