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The coaching search: 10 candidates to watch

The Browns are in the market for a coach after firing Freddie Kitchens on Sunday night after one season.

The list of candidates to replace him will surely change throughout the process, but here’s a preliminary list of five to watch.

Kevin Stefanski

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Minnesota Vikings


NFL experience: 14 seasons with the Vikings, one as coordinator

Selling points: Finished second to Kitchens in the search last year when he was in his second year as quarterbacks coach. Has done a good job as coordinator for a talented Vikings unit that ranks ninth with 25.4 points a game.

Cause for concern: Only 37 years old and has never been a head coach. Resume looks a lot like Kitchens’ did a year ago.

Scott Petrak’s take: If he gets the job, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and the analytics wing of the front office will be behind it. And that would be bad news for general manager John Dorsey.

Mike McCarthy

Current job: None

NFL experience: Head coach of Packers from 2006-18; offensive coordinator with Saints and 49ers previously

Selling points: Won a Super Bowl with the Packers. Was out of the game this year and spent it recharging and studying the game. Is motivated to win more Super Bowls.

Cause for concern: His offense got stale in the final years with the Packers and he won only one title with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback.

Petrak’s take: Makes all the sense in the world, but I’m not sure the fit is right with the former Packers in the front office — Dorsey, Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith. McCarthy was never a serious candidate a year ago.

Jim Caldwell

Current job: Consultant, Miami Dolphins

NFL experience: Head coach with Colts from 2009-11 and with Lions from 2014-17; spent seven years as assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach with Colts previously

Selling points: Went to the playoffs and had winning records with Indianapolis and Detroit. Lost the Super Bowl in his first year with the Colts.

Cause for concern: Hasn’t been a head coach for the last two years. Was fired despite winning records.

Petrak’s take: Was interviewed by Browns last season. After the Kitchens debacle, the Browns should seek someone with head coaching experience. They could do worse than Caldwell.

Urban Meyer

Current job: College football analyst, Fox Sports

NFL experience: None

Selling points: Won big in college, including a national title at Ohio State. Has deep Ohio roots.

Cause for concern: Medical problems have driven him from his last two jobs. Would be new to the NFL and might want too much power.

Petrak’s take: I may be in the minority but I don’t like the idea. He seems too intense for the long grind of the NFL, and his offense relies too much on the quarterback run.

Josh McDaniels

Current job: Offensive coordinator, New England Patriots

NFL experience: Head coach with Broncos in 2009-10; offensive coordinator for 12 years overall, including 11 with Patriots

Selling points: Has learned from the best in Bill Belichick. Born and raised in Northeast Ohio.

Cause for concern: Didn’t last two years as coach of the Broncos and flaked out on the Colts after agreeing to coach them in 2018.

Petrak’s take: An intriguing candidate if the Browns can get past his past. But he might be waiting to take over for Belichick.

Lincoln Riley

Current job: Head coach, University of Oklahoma

NFL experience: None

Selling points: Coached Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield for three seasons, is a brilliant offensive mind and has won big with the Sooners.

Cause for concern: Has never worked in the NFL.

Petrak’s take: The Mayfield connection is appealing, especially after he regressed in Year 2. Might be the first choice of the Cowboys.

Dan Campbell

Current job: Assistant head coach/tight ends coach, New Orleans Saints

NFL experience: Eight years as an assistant coach, 11 as a tight end

Selling points: Impressed as Dolphins interim coach for 12 games in 2015. No-nonsense approach would be a nice change.

Cause for concern: Limited experience as a head coach.

Petrak’s take: Also interviewed last year with the Browns. Would bring experience of being with a winning organization. A dark-horse choice.

Ron Rivera

Current job: None; fired by Panthers as coach Dec. 3

NFL experience: Nine years as a head coach, six as a defensive coordinator, nine as a linebacker

Selling points: Went to the playoffs four times, including a Super Bowl, as coach of the Panthers. A strong leader.

Cause for concern: Had a losing record in three of the last four years.

Petrak’s take: A strong candidate with a good-looking resume, but he might be hired by Washington before the Browns get a chance.

Eric Bieniemy

Current job: Offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL experience: Two years as an offensive coordinator, 10 as an assistant, nine as a player

Selling points: Has learned from one of the best in coach Andy Reid, and has a great reputation for dealing with players.

Cause for concern: Has never been a head coach, and doesn’t call the plays.

Petrak’s take: Dorsey didn’t interview him last year despite working with him in Kansas City and raving about him. Maybe the second year as coordinator will get him on the list.

Matt Campbell

Current job: Head coach, Iowa State

NFL experience: None

Selling points: Grew up in Massillon and has spent most of his life and career in Ohio. A proven winner.

Cause for concern: The lack of NFL experience is always troubling.

Petrak’s take: Has the perfect temperament for the job, but the jump to the NFL may scare the Browns.


Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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