Matt Rhule Cleveland Browns., Joe Judge by landing in New York, and now there’s only one team left that has yet to find a head coach for 2020: The
It’s been more than a week since the Haslams pulled the plug on Freddie Kitchens, guaranteeing Cleveland will enter the new season with its eighth head coach in 13 years. Aside from a report that the team has “” in luring former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer from the college ranks to lead its staff, most speculation regarding Cleveland’s opening has centered on candidates the club has officially interviewed.
In the spirit of helping the Browns end this never-ending nightmare that is their coaching carousel, we ranked the seven names who’ve either already met with the team or are reportedly scheduled to do so in the coming days. From worst to best, here they are:
7. Robert Saleh
If anyone’s capable of taking full advantage of Cleveland’s defensive talent, it’s Saleh. The guy has worked under Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley and is now guiding his own unit into a playoff run after a strong — at times historic — season in San Francisco. There are just too many question marks about whether he could assemble a good enough supporting staff, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, where the Browns need the most help. His personality would at least be fun.
6. Jim Schwartz
Make no mistake: He draws the occasional ire of Eagles fans for some stubborn strategies, but he’s been an above-average defensive coordinator for years. He’s got head-coaching experience from his time with the Lions (2009-2013). His fiery brand would also play pretty well with Cleveland’s defense, which isn’t far removed from working under Gregg Williams. But this just doesn’t feel like the right hire for a team in desperate need of an offensive reset, even if Schwartz’s no-nonsense attitude could help the culture.
5. Brian Daboll
The 44-year-old has beefed up his resume since he last worked for the Browns (2009-2010), when Cleveland’s offense ranked among the worst in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls and a national championship since that time. It’s hard to tell whether his recent work with Bills quarterback Josh Allen is more indicative of his potential than, say, the fact he’s mostly thrived as a position coach. But he’d certainly be an upgrade over Kitchens for Baker Mayfield.
4. Greg Roman
In the simplest terms possible, Roman is like the sweeter version of Daboll. He’s a mid-40s offensive coordinator with a background in coaching QBs and tight ends, and he’s got experience at both the college and NFL level. The difference is Roman’s gotten more notable results, at least statistically speaking. Widely known for his creative offense-building around Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor and now Lamar Jackson, he just might be the perfect strategist for Mayfield, a guy who’s often at his best on the move.
3. Eric Bieniemy
Maybe the most underrated candidate on the market, Bieniemy can’t get all the credit for the Chiefs offense by virtue of working under Andy Reid, but the fact is he’s been the coordinator for two of the most explosive K.C. seasons in team history. The former running back has almost 20 years of NFL coaching experience, he’s had gigs overseeing Pro Bowlers like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, and he’s due. Reid pupils historically fare very well, and Bieniemy has the pedigree to build both Mayfield and Nick Chubb.
2. Josh McDaniels
We all like to poke fun at McDaniels for backing away from the Colts job in 2018, or for floundering in Denver back in 2009-2010. And those criticisms are warranted; the Browns would definitely need to investigate his commitment after the Indy incident. But it’d also be hard for Cleveland to get a more accomplished offensive mind in the building. McDaniels is still young at 43, he’s had 16 years and six Super Bowl runs to learn from Bill Belichick and Co., and he’s toyed with some very different Patriots offenses over the years.
1. Kevin Stefanski
The Browns have had problems staying loyal to a head coach — many times for good reason, other times the result of higher-up dysfunction. Stefanski, on the other hand, only knows NFL loyalty, starting with the Vikings in 2006 as an assistant to the head coach and sticking with Minnesota ever since. Along the way, he’s coached QBs, RBs, TEs and, since December 2018, the entire offense. He got the best out of Case Keenum in 2017, rebuilt the unit for Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook in 2019, and he hails from a family with a front-office history (his dad, Ed, is a former NBA general manager). He’s everything the Browns could ask for at this point: A young, proven offensive mind with the background to be a long-term leader.