Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Is it really over? Not quite yet

National Football League head coach vacancies update: Matt LeFleur is headed to Green Bay; Kliff Kingsbury gets the job in Arizona; Bruce Arians is all but set in Tampa; and Denver will choose either Vic Fanzio or Mike Munchak.

That’s four down, four to go as the race for the next Browns head coach tightens with speculation now indicating Freddie Kitchens and ex-Minnesota interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski are the leaders in the clubhouse and the apparent finalists.

Reports from the NFL Network and other league sites suggest it’s all but over with General Manager John Dorsey and the team’s selection committee deciding on the ultimate winner.

That would seem to indicate Dorsey has shut down interviews with other candidates. But until he and the committee make the final decision and the club calls a news conference, nothing is chiseled.

If Kitchens is the surprise choice, it would complete a storybook season during which his stock rose to dizzying heights while serving as the Browns’ interim OC in the second half of the season.

To go from running backs coach to interim offensive coordinator to head coach of the Browns within a one-year period – he was hired last Jan. 24 – is the kind of story most people would never believe.

As for Stefanski, now a free agent after his contract with the Vikings expired Monday night, it is being reported in Minnesota he left the club of his own volition and is in Cleveland for a second interview.

He has been with the Vikings since 2006 in a variety of capacities, mostly on offense, but never in charge of a unit until he succeeded the fired John DeFilippo as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator with three games left in the 2018 season.

If Dorsey and the committee tap Kitchens, there is still a good chance Stefanski will come on board as the full-time offensive chief with Kitchens concentrating on being a head coach. He was still under contract with the Vikings when he interviewed for the head coaching with the Browns the first time.

If Stefanski is the choice, he would become at 36 the youngest head coach in Browns history, replacing Eric Mangini, who was hired 12 days before his 38th birthday in 2009.

All that said, let’s for a moment disbelieve the notion that the search is over and it’s only a matter of time before an announcement is made, that Dorsey isn’t quite through yet.

There is one name out there that hasn’t been mentioned yet. And if I’m wrong, it might never be mentioned in conjunction with the Browns.

Dorsey is looking for stability. Someone who is grounded. Someone who knows all the nuts and bolts of running an entire football team, not just one side of the football

It is not easy making the switch from assistant to head coach at any level. Being a head coach is worlds different than being a position coach or a coordinator. The litany of failures far outnumbers those who are successful.

I’ve heard the following before and firmly believe it: Most assistant football coaches are lieutenants; only a select few are generals. The lieutenants are very good at what they do until becoming head coaches. The generals are those who get it and have no problem making a successful transition.

They are thinkers who see the whole picture, not just part of it. They surround themselves with like-minded people.

There is someone out there on the NFL coaching landscape who fits that profile. Dorsey knows him. He is Dave Toub, the long-time successful special teams coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Next: Why Toub should be given strong consideration to be the next Browns coach.

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