The Cleveland Browns have been linked to requests for interviews with seven coaching candidates so far and there could be more still coming. With all due respect to San Francisco 49ers Passing Game Coordinator Mike LaFleur, his interview seems more likely to be for a coordinator position than a head coaching one. This focuses on the other six, what they've done and some questions they might face as well as how it could impact the status of general manager John Dorsey.
Kevin Stefanski is 37 years old. He's an Ivy League graduate that played at Penn on defense. Stefanski would have likely gotten the Browns head coaching job last year had John Dorsey not given it to Freddie Kitchens. He's never been a head coach at any level, which could hurt him this time around as the Browns prepare to interview him for the third time in two years.
The most attractive part of what Stefanski offers to the Browns might be the offensive scheme he runs. His zone scheme is ideal for both the Browns offensive line and Nick Chubb, who excelled with that in Cleveland this past year and Baker Mayfield looks like a good fit for his passing offense.
Given the fact that Dorsey passed over him and it was people like Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta who were his biggest boosters, if the Browns want Stefanski, it might mean Dorsey leaving and DePodesta and Stefanski having input on who the next general manager would be.
Robert Saleh is 40 years old and he has the least experience of any candidate they are slated to interview at this point. Yes, Saleh does count toward the Rooney Rule as he is a minority candidate, but no, that's not the only reason they'd want to talk to him.
He's enjoying a ton of success with the San Francisco 49ers defense and the Browns are trying to figure out what he's all about. Not only is this trying to learn about him, but they are likely trying to get some insight into what the 49ers are doing that is enabling them to be successful.
From a defensive scheme standpoint, the 49ers have a similar defensive line setup and a linebacker not unlike Joe Schobert. It would be a pretty smooth transition at the first two levels of the defense.
They run a predominately zone based coverage scheme, which might be a tougher sell here, given that Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are better suited to play man. Saleh may purely be playing zone because that's what he has in San Francisco, but these are reasons to interview him.
Talent may play a substantial role in Saleh's success this season, but in an NFL that is so geared toward offense, Saleh's defense is on the cutting edge in terms of how to stop them.
Josh McDaniels is still only 43 years old, despite how long it feels like he's been in the NFL. Obviously, he was the head coach of the Denver Broncos from 2009 to 2010 and he was the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts for about 24 hours two years ago.
His time with the Broncos is interesting purely from what he learned. It was ten years ago, so he could have evolved a great deal. The Colts situation is one that requires more far more investigation from an interviewing standpoint.
McDaniels also might have the most wide ranging possibility in terms of assistants to pull from and hire. He has experience coaching both sides of the ball and his offense should be a good fit for Mayfield and Chubb.
It's extremely difficult to imagine Dorsey would stay in the event the Browns would hire McDaniels. Dorsey didn't want to interview McDaniels last year due to the circumstance with the Colts and McDaniels reportedly would want to bring in his own front office personnel. Most people try to connect him with Nick Caserio from the Patriots, but reports believe it more likely he'd bring Dave Ziegler from that front office, who McDaniels has a longer history.
Brian Daboll is 44 years old and has a wide range of experience, but he's never been a head coach. He was the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2009 and 2010 with mediocre results, but like with McDaniels, that was ten years ago and he's improved quite a bit since then. A former Patriots assistant, he's been a defensive assistant and an offensive coordinator for five different teams including the Browns, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Alabama Crimson Tide and currently the Buffalo Bills.
Daboll would likely mean a more dramatic change in terms of the offense. More gap scheme blocking and more of a vertical passing game. While the scheme he's currently running in Buffalo has been very effective for the Bills even if the results aren't pretty, it would require some substantial tweaking in a move to the Browns as he wouldn't be utilizing Mayfield the same way as he does Allen.
Greg Roman is 47 years old and has never been a head coach. He's been an offensive coordinator for three different teams with impressive results. Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor and Lamar Jackson have had the best seasons of their career with Roman.
The natural question the Browns will want to have answered is what type of offense Roman would want to run with someone like Mayfield. He's obviously stylistically different from the quarterbacks he's had the most success. He's not built to be a dual threat where is legs are a featured part of the offense.
Roman could also provide insight into the Ravens operations. Perhaps the biggest credit to Roman coming out of this year is the fact that the Ravens offense got better as the season progressed. They've lost a few players to injury, but they haven't missed a step and become a more dangerous team than the one that started the season beating the Miami Dolphins 59-10.
Mike McCarthy is the oldest candidate at 56 years old and obviously has the best resume. He has a career record of 125-77-2, a playoff record of 10-8 and has won a Super Bowl. McCarthy also has extensive experiences working with quarterbacks and helped Aaron Rodgers become one of the best to ever play the game.
The knock for McCarthy was that he wasn't able to adapt as the game progressed and it passed him by during his 13-year run with the Packers. In the year McCarthy took off, he has hired a staff to help him catch up and evolve.
That might be what most of the discussion with McCarthy is about. An advanced coach when he guided Aaron Brooks to career seasons with the New Orleans Saints, if he can evolve and regain the edge he once had, he could be an excellent choice for the Browns. His offenses, albeit in need of updating, would be a fit for Baker Mayfield, the offensive line and Nick Chubb.
McCarthy might also represent Dorsey's best chance to remain with the team as they know each other from the Packers organization.