And then there was none.
The only team left in the NFL landscape looking for a head coach has found its man in a familiar candidate.
Last season, Stefanski was seen as the runner-up to the job bestowed upon Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens was fired after just one season and Stefanski is now taking his spot.
Following Kitchens’ firing, the Browns and general manager John Dorsey parted ways, so upon Stefanski’s hiring, finding the next GM is paramount in Cleveland. Cleveland has already requested interviews with Colts assistant general manager and Eagles vice president of football operations, while Rapoport added the Browns might look at Vikings assistant GM George Paton.
Though the Browns fired Kitchens on the last Sunday of the season, they were the last team to fill their coaching vacancy after a lengthy search that encompassed nearly two weeks and eight interviews.
In the cold aftermath of a 6-10 showing of a 2019 season, Kitchens was dismissed. As it was Kitchens’ first job as a head coach, the belief among many was the Browns‘ next leader along the sidelines would be one with head-coaching experience.
The 37-year-old Stefanski does not offer that, though, as he’ll venture out of the Skol confines for the first time in his NFL tenure, having began as an assistant to the head coach in Minnesota in 2006. Since then he’s been a tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks coach before taking over as offensive coordinator in 2018.
Though he lost out to Kitchens a season ago in the Browns‘ search, he left a lasting impression with Paul DePodesta. DePodesta, the Browns chief strategy officer who was heading the coaching search, had an edge going in to this year’s search, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, and got the job.
Forty-Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was seen as another top contender for the job and had a strong interview, Pelissero reported, but lost out. It was the opposite of Saturday’s fate on the field as Stefanski’s Vikings offense was corralled by Saleh’s 49ers defense.
Other fallout, as Rapoport added, from Stefanski’s hiring will be that Patriots offensive coordinator (another presumed top pick for the Browns‘ job) will remain in New England under Bill Belichick. Minnesota will also need a new offensive coordinator, but Gary Kubiak is there as assistant head coach and offensive advisor.
Given the job as offensive coordinator in an interim capacity toward the end of the 2018 season, Stefanski held on to the job through 2019 as the Vikings had the No. 8 scoring offense.
Moving on from the likes of Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Dalvin Cook, Stefanski will take over a Browns roster brimming with offensive talent coupled with unfulfilled potential from this past year’s disappointing showing.
Including interim coach Gregg Williams, Stefanski is set to be the third Cleveland coach in as many seasons when 2020 kicks off.
Another new dawn is upon Cleveland as the last coaching search in the NFL has concluded and the Browns have found their newest next coach.