The desire for a collaborative, aligned organization could lead the Browns back to the Vikings.
The Browns hired coach Kevin Stefanski on Jan. 13 after he spent 14 years with the Vikings, including 2019 as offensive coordinator.
Hiring a general manager is the next priority, and Minnesota’s vice president of player personnel/assistant general manager George Paton may be the leading candidate. He’s spent 13 seasons with the Vikings.
Paton interviewed over the weekend, a league source confirmed to The Chronicle-Telegram. He’s expected to meet with the Browns again this week.
Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry and Patriots director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort interviewed Friday.
Berry was VP of player personnel for the Browns from 2016-18 and was considered the favorite to return as general manager after John Dorsey and the Browns parted ways Dec. 31 when he refused to accept a reduced role. Berry is liked and respected inside the Browns organization, especially by owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.
But Jimmy Haslam and chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta have stressed the need for alignment after years of division and power struggles at the top of the organization. With that in mind, Haslam said the new coach would be “heavily involved” in the general manager search.
Stefanski joined Haslam, DePodesta, executive vice president JW Johnson and vice president of football administration Chris Cooper on the search committee, and has a long history with Paton, who works under Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.
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.
Stefanski has started to fill out his coaching staff.
He plans to hire veteran coach Bill Callahan to lead the offensive line, a source confirmed. He’ll replace James Campen, who was with the Browns for one season.
Callahan, 63, was head coach of the Raiders in 2002-03, going 11-5 and losing in the Super Bowl in 2002 and falling to 4-12 in 2003. He went 3-8 as interim coach of Washington this season after Jay Gruden was fired.
He was head coach of the University of Nebraska from 2004-07.
Callahan broke into the NFL as an offensive line coach in 1995 with the Eagles. He’s been a coordinator for the Raiders and Cowboys and spent the last five years with Washington.
Stefanski will retain special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who worked with Stefanski in Minnesota from 2011-18 before joining the Browns in 2019. Assistant special teams coach Doug Colman will also stay. Cleveland’s special teams made a big improvement from 2018.
Running backs coach Stump Mitchell will also return, a source confirmed. Nick Chubb finished second in the league with 1,494 rushing yards.
Joe Woods, defensive backs coach/passing game coordinator for the 49ers, is likely to be hired as defensive coordinator, but a deal can’t be finalized until after the 49ers play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.
Chad O’Shea will be hired for the offensive staff, likely as receivers coach. He was Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2019 after 10 years as receivers coach for the Patriots.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield ranks fourth and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. fifth on the NFLPA’s official list of top-selling players, based on sales of all officially licensed NFL player-identified merchandise from March 1-Nov. 30.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is No. 1.
** The Browns were tied for 13th with the Cardinals in Rick Gosselin’s overall special teams rankings for the season. They take into account all facets of special teams.