Last year, Browns chief strategy officer (a big title for basically a part-time, absentee gig) Paul DePodesta wanted the Browns to hire Vikings offensive coordinator (for a handful of games) Kevin Stefanski. The Browns instead hired Browns offensive coordinator (for two handfuls of games) Freddie Kitchens.
This year, Kitchens failed. Stefanski, well, it’s not clear what he really did. He spent the full season as offensive coordinator in Minnesota, but by all accounts the credit for Minnesota’s chicken-salad recipe went to assistant head coach/offensive consultant Gary Kubiak. Indeed, when head coach Mike Zimmer calls Kubiak, not Stefanski, “probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me since I came here,” that says plenty.
But the Browns hired Stefanski anyway, via a process that was run by DePodesta. Sure, ownership technically made the decision, but DePodesta set the menu — including, per multiple sources, talking directly to coaching and/or G.M. candidates who were not officially interviewed, which basically gave DePodesta the power to serve as the initial screener of potential hires.
And so one day after Stefanski’s offense in Minnesota generated 21 rushing yards and had eight of its first nine drives produce two, minus-two, four, eight, one, six, minus-five, and minus-four yards, Stefanski’s ship has come in, a year later than DePodesta wanted it to.
Now the question will be whether Stefanski is any more prepared to be a head coach than Kitchens was. But former G.M. John Dorsey got his way last year with Kitchens, and now DePodesta is getting his way with Stefanski. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, the next hard reset from Browns ownership must include DePodesta.