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Possible head coaching candidates if Kevin Stefanski gets fired

The Browns need to have a list going, or they can just borrow ours

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

To say that the Cleveland Browns have had its fair share of head coaches is like saying life is a beautiful melody, except the lyrics are messed up.

When Kevin Stefanski was hired in 2020, the offensive coach was looked at as a vehicle to bring along first-overall draft pick quarterback Baker Mayfield into a Top-5 talent. Various weapons and highly-sought after offensive linemen were brought into the fold to assist their new guy.

The Browns broke a 17-year playoff drought in Stefanski’s first season at the helm by going 11-5-0. They even won a playoff game over the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. That season led to Stefanski being named NFL Coach of the Year.

And life was indeed a melody with unicorns and rainbows.

Last year was different. The club limped along to an 8-9-0 season despite starting the year 3-1-0. As they remained a playoff contender late in the season, Cleveland lost three of their final four games.

Fast forward to this season. What should have begun as a 4-0-0 team was impacted by a slew of mistakes, miscalculations, a confused secondary, playing with a backup QB, and untimely penalties making this year a roller coaster.

And another losing record.

With two bad seasons under his belt, Stefanski may appear headed to the firing squad instead of to do more film study to determine what went wrong. Again.

One thing is certain, after Stefanski guided Cleveland to an 11-5-0 record plus a playoff berth in his first season, the only thing the Browns have done since is regress. Good coaches build on success in order for the franchise to become better in future seasons. Has this happened in Cleveland? That answer is a short “no.”

Perhaps because the Browns now have QB Deshaun Watson into the fold Stefanski may have gotten himself at least one year of job security with that deal. Maybe this year is considered as a trial run and perhaps doesn’t count. Possibly the expectations are for him to have a full year with Watson under center so that the turnaround actually begins.


But if this thinking is true, Stefanski must make the playoffs in 2023 or he will certainly be expected to find other employment. Stefanski is a very smart man with the hope that he will make the needed changes to keep his job going forward while the coaching carousel that this franchise keeps experiencing will finally cease.

Stefanski began with an 11-5-0 season in his rookie campaign which included a playoff win. Then last year the club went 8-9-0 and at 6-9-0 the best this year’s version can obtain is a paltry 8-9-0 year. Currently, Cleveland is in last place in the division and out of the playoff race even with two games remaining.

Look at this year’s team and ask yourself this: where have the Browns gotten better? Right now most of the arrows are all pointing down as far as improvement.

Could he be fired at the season’s end? Will he? Should he?

If the answer is yes, then the Browns will need to get right on it with bringing in his replacement. There are college All-Star games to attend such as the Senior Bowl. The draft board will need to be arranged. Key free agents will need to be listed and processed by team needs.


Should the new guy be offensive or defensive-minded? With veteran QB Watson under center, the next head coach doesn’t need to develop a quarterback. Why not hire a defensive guy and really build an elite defensive unit? Why not focus on only drafting or signing players who are superb tacklers and have a knack for production?

Here at DBN, we have assembled a list of not just available coaches, but quality available coaches who just might be the next head football coach.


Miami Dolphins v New Orleans Saints Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Sean Payton

The former New Orleans Saints boss took a season off to, well, to not coach. He is a long shot to come to Cleveland but is an excellent coach and motivator. He has stated that he will look into accepting another head coaching gig in 2023. The rumor was that Dallas would snap him, but with their current winning seasons that is now clickbait.

Payton is just 58 years old and grew up in nearby Illinois. He coached the Saints for 15 years so whatever job he gets next he intends to stay awhile. His record is 152-89 with a .631 win percentage. New Orleans played in 17 playoff games with six division titles, one conference crown plus a Super Bowl win.

His forte is making the passing game better and building a very efficient, productive offense. Despite looking like he has retired, he is actually on a sabbatical. Payton is still under contract with the Saints for two more years, so the club that hires him will mean a trade for his services.

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Bill O’Brien – OC University of Alabama

O’Brien was the head coach of the Houston Texans for six-and-one-third seasons from 2014-2019. During his stay, the Texans won four division titles and won nine of more games in his seven seasons. He is 53 years old and just finished a successful year as the offensive coordinator/QB coach at Alabama. O’Brien was the head coach when the franchise drafted Deshaun Watson.

The highest his offense ranked was 13th in his final season. Watson went to three Pro Bowls under his tutelage. His pro record is 54-52.

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Shane Steichen - OC Philadelphia Eagles

Steichen joined the Eagles in 2021 as the offensive coordinator. In his first year with the Eagles, Steichen coordinated the league’s most productive rushing offense, as Philadelphia ranked first in the NFL with franchise records in rushing yards (2,715) and rushing touchdowns (25). The Eagles also led the league in explosive plays (163) and ranked fourth in third-down percentage (team-record 45.7 pct.) and fifth in giveaways (16).

Steichen, age 37, has been a key component in the development of QB Jalen Hurts, a second-round draft pick. Hurts is one of just eight quarterbacks in NFL history to register 3,000 passing yards (3,144) and 750 rushing yards (784) in a season. This year, Hurts is in the conversation for league MVP. Steichen also helped OG Lane Johnson and C Jason Kelce earn All-Pro recognition.

Considered an offensive guru, he spent seven seasons with the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers under current Philly head coach Nick Sirianni as the QB coach, offensive quality control coach, plus OC. In 2013 Steichen was on the Browns’ staff as the offensive quality control coach on Rob Chudzinski’s staff.

Callahan looks at replay Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Brian Callahan – OC Cincinnati Bengals

One thing for certain, Callahan knows the division very well. Not only is he calling plays for the Bengals, but his father is Bill Callahan, offensive line coach for Cleveland. Callahan is just 38 years old with his first NFL gig with Denver back in 2010. He has been the OC at Cincy for three seasons. Previous positions have been QB coach, offensive quality control coach, and offensive assistant.

Callahan has a Super Bowl ring when he was with Denver and worked with Peyton Manning. He is credited with the rise of Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow. Currently, Cincinnati is the league’s fourth-best offensive team. Last year they finished #2.

Another reason to hire Callahan is that this would hurt a team within the division.


NFL: New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flores – Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, Flores is suing the NFL which has owners to which Jimmy and Dee Haslam are owners. But does this keep him from being employed as a head coach? Maybe. If not, Flores is an excellent coaching prospect. He is currently the Senior defensive assistant & linebackers coach with Pittsburgh.

Flores, age 41, came out of the Bill Belichick coaching tree and worked for New England for 11 seasons and won four Super Bowls. He was interviewed in 2019 by the Browns before they hired Freddie Kitchens. Flores was then hired as head coach of the Miami Dolphins where he remained employed for three seasons. Miami went 10-6-0 and 9-8-0 in his final two seasons. In both years Miami was eliminated from playoff contention on the final week of play.

While with the Dolphins, the franchise went 24-25-0 and posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 20 years. The team actually had a trade worked out for Watson while Flores was the head coach but was derailed by semantics.

Bringing on Flores would be a young, CEO type of hire. He will have a lot of interest this off-season and is going to be very interesting to see where the market is for Flores after his surprising firing in Miami.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

DeMeco Ryans – DC San Francisco 49ers

Ryans has proven to be an exceptional defensive coordinator in the NFL ever since Robert Saleh left last season. What has transpired since is two years of elite production.

A former college standout at Alabama, Ryans (age 38) was drafted in the second round by Houston and played 10 seasons. He was hired in 2017 by San Francisco as a defensive quality control coach and has been employed by the 49ers ever since.

Ryans has the San Francisco 49ers defense ranked No. 1 in total yards allowed, points allowed, and rushing yards allowed. The unit is allowing 15.3 points per game this season, with that number being a stingy 12.1-point average over the team’s eight-game win streak.

Last year Ryans was a candidate for the Minnesota Vikings head coaching vacancy but abruptly took his name off the list as he declined a second interview. His reason was that he felt he needed another year of seasoning in his current DC job before he felt he could become a competent headman.

He’s well-respected in the 49ers’ locker room, and his on-field results are inarguable. Ryans will get hired by someone looking to bring their defense into the modern age. And perhaps Cleveland is just that place.

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Dan Quinn – DC Dallas Cowboys

Consistency is what Quinn has given Dallas as the head man for this defense. Last year the Cowboys finished as the seventh-best defensive unit and currently, they are ranked sixth. Quinn, age 52, has been an NFL head coach previously so he knows what to expect.

His name has been on these lists for a few years now and he has another strong case to reenter the head coaching ranks after leading Dallas’ defense to another top season. There are some that believe that Quinn would bring in Brian Schottenheimer with him as offensive coordinator if he was hired as head coach.


Quinn was the head guy with the Atlanta Falcons from 2015-2020. In just his first season, Atlanta finished with the 14th-ranked ranked defense and as high as 8th in 2017.

In Quinn’s second year, the Falcons went 11-5-0 and lost to New England in the Super Bowl. The following year Atlanta finished 10-6-0 and won a playoff game only to lose to Philadelphia in the Divisional round. In his final years he went 7-9-0 twice, then 4-12-0.

Quinn has had success. If the Browns would allow him to find a true offensive mind to run that side of the ball and set him loose, the defense will continue to build under his tutelage.

NFL: DEC 26 Giants at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jonathan Gannon - DC Philadelphia Eagles

Gannon, age 39, leads one of the best defenses in the NFL this season. Production usually gets people hired to head coaching positions and Gannon has been one of the best. He is in his second season at the helm of Philly’s defense.

Last year his defense finished 10th in the league and allowed just 328.8 yards per contest and the second-most defensive touchdowns. The Eagles’ defense also allowed the fifth-fewest explosive plays (117), finished ninth in opponent rushing yards per game (107.9) and opponent three-and-out percentage (33.1 pct.). In 2021 three Eagles were named to the Pro Bowl and two this year.

Gannon is definitely a player’s coach and he places a lot of faith into his athletes. The Eagles are currently the league’s Number 1 passing defense and have the second most interceptions (16).

It is only a matter of where Gannon will become a head coach and not when. He will in all likelihood be the hot name on the coaching circuit this off-season.


Should the Browns fire Stefanski?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    On Black Monday....yes
    (812 votes)
  • 50%
    Give him one full season with Deshaun
    (1033 votes)
  • 10%
    No, keep him for as long as it takes to build a winner
    (208 votes)
2053 votes total Vote Now