Behind the latest Browns shakeup and why it had to be done

How the Haslams plan to move forward with the next coach and GM search

Daryl Ruiter
January 01, 2020 - 7:51 pm

CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – We’ve seen this movie multiple times before, but hopefully the fifth time will be the charm.

Afterall January just wouldn’t be the same without the ‘Help Wanted’ sign hanging in Berea.

That’s where we’re at as the Cleveland Browns are back in the market for anther head coach and general manager.

Not much needs to be said about the dismissal of Freddie Kitchens hours after the Browns finished 6-10 with an embarrassing 33-23 loss to the lowly 2-14 Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.

Justifying his return in 2020 was simply too impossible for the Browns to do.

Kitchens struggled all year on game day as well as behind the scenes during the week preparing, leading and disciplining his team. It was as clear as day every time the Browns took the field. It didn’t take long for Kitchens to get himself in the doghouse with ownership early in the season and Dorsey, who was responsible for Kitchens under the former organizational structure, was unable to coach the coach and get things on track or moving in a positive direction.

Dorsey’s departure wasn’t as cut and dry as Kitchens’ was.

The Haslams did not want to do a complete blow up, yet here we are. They preferred Dorsey remain and oversee talent evaluation and acquisition, but the coach and search for one would no longer be in his purview. Dorsey would assist in the search, but not lead it or make the final call.

That was a problem for Dorsey, who didn’t want a reduced role or a powerful head coach like he had with Andy Reid in Kansas City. From Dorsey’s perspective, and understandably so, he wanted to stay the course with his responsibilities as the chief football executive and general manager.

Kitchens was not the lone reason behind the decision to curb Dorsey’s football authority, but it is fair to say it was front and center. Placing a second coaching search in as many years at Dorsey’s feet was not something the Haslams were willing to go through.  

Who could blame them? All that cap space and assets, and the coach he produced was Kitchens?

Something had to give, and thus a mutual parting of ways.

So what’s the plan now? Well, it’s complicated.

A lot depends on who the head coach is going to be along with the structure and personnel people that coach is comfortable with.

It’s a dangerous dance, but one the Haslams are willing to step to in order to get their guy.

The Browns would like assistant general manager Eliot Wolf to stay in his current or similar capacity, but that will be up to the new head coach, new general manager and, of course, Wolf.

Paul DePodesta is back from his frequent commutes to and from southern California to lend a hand and assist ownership with the search. A misconception that has been spreading is that DePodesta is taking over football operations. That’s not true.

DePodesta’s reputation when he made the move from Major League Baseball in 2016 to the Browns was one of organization building – processes, data gathering, analysis and usage, leadership and cohesion throughout.

It’s no secret DePodesta preferred Bills coach Sean McDermott, who has taken Buffalo to the playoffs twice since being hired, over Hue Jackson in 2016 and Kevin Stefanski, Vikings offensive coordinator, over Kitchens last year.

Considering how the hires by the “football people” panned out, it’s understandable why the Haslams are willing to listen to DePodesta now.

With four years in the NFL under his belt, DePodesta has had a front row seat and been able to evaluate what wet wrong with the last two regimes he was part of, the best way to rebuild the front office and coaching staff and move forward in the hope the same problems don’t arise with the new group.

According to multiple sources, this coaching search currently has seven total candidates.

Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy, fired in 2018 after taking Green Bay to nine playoff appearances and a Super Bowl victory, kicks the interviews off on Thursday.

The Browns have submitted requests to interview six others – Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Bills offensive coordinator and former Browns OC under Eric Mangini Brian Daboll, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Stefanski.

When the first round of interviews is completed, the decision likely could come down to two or three names – McDaniels, Stefanski and possibly McCarthy.

League sources have told us McDaniels, a Canton, Ohio native, would like to bring Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio to Cleveland with him.

Andrew Berry, who is currently the vice president of football operations for the Eagles but served as one of the Browns’ vice presidents of player personnel from 2016-18, could be teamed with Stefanski. Berry and DePodesta had a strong working relationship in Cleveland.

Wolf and McCarthy have been projected as a potential pairing because of their Green Bay roots.

Most importantly, the Haslams do not want the next general manager and head coach to come in and take a stick of dynamite to the roster, which is a valid concern since that typically is how the NFL, and the Browns, have historically operated.

The Browns prefer a coach and general manager combination that wants, not just is willing, but wants to build upon the work Dorsey did the last two years, not tear it all down to start from scratch, again.

That might be the best news of all.