Kevin Stefanski hire has Paul DePodesta’s fingerprints all over it

DePodesta’s far reaching influence leads to Vikings OC, organizational alignment

Daryl Ruiter
January 12, 2020 - 2:43 pm
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – For the first time since Jimmy and Dee Haslam dropped a cool billion bucks on the Browns, the football side of the organization is about to be on the same page from top to bottom.  

Finally.

For better or worse, right or wrong, philosophically everyone in the boat will be rowing in the same direction – or at least the one laid out by chief strategy officer and serial California/teleconference commuter Paul DePodesta.

And that is what the first two weeks of the new decade and the Haslams’ fifth head coaching and general manager search have been all about – alignment.

The infighting and dysfunction between football traditionalists and the analytics department or front office that have been so prevalent since the Haslams bought the team are about to be a thing of the past.

Kevin Stefanski was DePodesta’s pick a year ago, but he lost out to former general manager John Dorsey, who hired Freddie Kitchens instead.

A season filled with drama, a lack of discipline and 10 losses followed.

Kitchens was fired Dec. 29 and two days later Dorsey, done in by Kitchens and his resistance to an altered role within the organization, and the Browns both agreed to part ways.

DePodesta identified Bills head coach Sean McDermott in 2016 as well and championed him over Hue Jackson.

While Buffalo has made the playoffs twice under McDermott, the nuking of the roster in 2016 by the Browns in favor of accumulating draft picks and assets along with salary cap space with Jackson at the helm of the team made consistent winning impossible for anyone.

However, the Dolphins replicated Cleveland’s rebuilding plan in 2019 by dumping high cost and big-name players for draft picks, yet they still won five games this past season validating the contention that 1-31, fueled by Jackson’s disdain for the front office, was unnecessary.    

Stefanski steps in with a roster built to contend and win now.

A massive rebuild is not necessary and the Browns don’t seem inclined to go through another one.

Stefanski’s No. 1 priority will be to get Baker Mayfield back on track after the 2018 No. 1 pick regressed significantly under Kitchens. Mayfield completed 59.4% of his passes, threw 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions during his sophomore season.

Receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry each eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving – a first in franchise history, and Nick Chubb finished second in the league with 1,494 yards rushing.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reportedly proposed sweeping changes organizationally within the Browns, including the exodus of DePodesta. Shockingly DePodesta didn’t recommend McDaniels and the Haslams chose to maintain the same structure that has failed before – everyone reporting independently but directly to them.

The difference this time is that DePodesta, the new general manager (expected to be the triumphant return of Andrew Berry after spending a year in Philadelphia as vice president of football operations), and Stefanski will share the same philosophy in player evaluation and usage.

While there will still be three different voices in the Haslams’ ear, they’ll at least be speaking the same language.

For the Browns, that’s progress.

DePodesta’s reputation in Major League Baseball was one of organizational building from structure to scouting to on the field, and everywhere he went, his teams won. After four years his vision of how the Browns should run is being fully adopted and employed.

In Berea, DePodesta has been viewed as someone lurking in the shadows, judging from afar with undeserved influence on ownership. The resistance to him and his vision is being swept out the door now that Stefanski, who joins the most volatile franchise in the NFL after spending 14 years with the Vikings spanning three different head coaches, takes over.  

Regardless of fan or media reaction to the selection of Stefanski, no one knows what the future holds or how successful this newest regime will be.

One thing is clear, DePodesta is now on the clock, and if his plan fails, we’ll be doing this all over again in two years, without him.

Tick tock.