The Browns added a general manager candidate and lost another Monday.
And they may have competition for the favorite for the job.
The Browns requested permission to interview Vikings vice president of player personnel/assistant general manager George Paton, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram.
The Browns previously requested permission to interview Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry, who’s expected by many to get the job. The interview is expected to take place this week.
Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds declined the Browns’ request, a league source confirmed. He was linked to 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who was a finalist but lost out to Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski for the coaching job.
Stefanski’s hiring was officially announced Monday.
The Browns’ plan was to hire a coach and then give him input into the general manager selection as owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam search for alignment at the top of the organization.
Stefanski worked with Paton for the last 13 years in Minnesota. A Stefanski-Berry pairing also makes sense.
Berry was vice president of player personnel for the Browns from 2016-18 and was part of the coaching search last year in which Stefanski finished as runner-up to Freddie Kitchens, who was fired Dec. 29 after going 6-10 in his lone season. Berry and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta reportedly favored Stefanski.
The Panthers requested permission to interview Berry to be executive vice president of football operations, according to reports, but it’ll only be granted by the Eagles if the Panthers would give him control of the 53-man roster. He’d have that control with the Browns.
Paton works under Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and has turned down interview requests from the Browns and other teams in previous years but is expected to accept Cleveland’s request this time, according to NFL Network. The situation is different because of the Stefanski connection.
Paton’s also worked for the Bears and Dolphins. He played defensive back at UCLA from 1988-91 and professionally in Italy and Austria.
The Vikings made the playoffs in three of the last five years, and had four Pro Bowlers in 2018 and three in 2019.
LENDING A HAND
The Browns didn’t have anyone with a football playing or scouting background on the search committee that landed Stefanski. Owner Jimmy Haslam, executive vice president JW Johnson, DePodesta and vice president of football administration Chris Cooper were the group that attended the eight interviews.
But former Browns left tackle Joe Thomas revealed Monday he helped gather information during the search.
“The cool thing about the situation that I was in here is some of the people from the Browns reached out to me and asked if I could do a little bit of homework on some of these coaches,” Thomas said on the team’s in-house radio show. “I reached out to as many players and coaches that I’ve worked with, that I know throughout the NFL that have had interactions with all these guys who were the top candidates.”
Thomas, who retired after the 2017 season, does broadcasting work for NFL Network. He called Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph for a scouting report on Stefanski, including how he is as a leader.
“He said the reason that the Minnesota Vikings offense was as good as they were this year was because of Kevin Stefanski,” Thomas said. “He was the one that brought everybody together, that got everybody back on track … and to get people thinking team again.
“He’s like, ‘If you guys don’t hire this guy, you’re letting another Kyle Shanahan walk out the building.’”
Shanahan is coach of the 49ers, who will host the NFC championship game Sunday. He was offensive coordinator for the Browns in 2014.
JUMPING FOR JOY
Shanahan was more than relieved when the Browns picked Stefanski over Saleh. He gets to keep his defensive coordinator for another year.
“I was pumped. I heard it on my way into work, so I was extremely excited,” Shanahan told reporters. “I definitely have some empathy for Saleh. I know anyone who goes through that process and stuff, we’re all competitive and you want to win and you want to get that opportunity and stuff.
“Every year we keep him, we’ll be very fortunate. Saleh’s going to be a head coach in this league. Could’ve been one this year. Most likely he’ll be one next year. He just needs the right opportunity, and he’s going to keep getting better and better, too.”
Running back Nick Chubb was voted to the All-AFC team by the Pro Football Writers of America. He was second in the league with 1,494 rushing yards.
The Browns didn’t have anyone on the PFWA All-NFL team. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey were the running backs.
** Assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko is joining the staff of new Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, according to ESPN. He’ll be assistant line coach to Joe Philbin.
Blasko worked for McCarthy from 2016-18 in Green Bay and was with the Browns in 2019.