Kevin Stefanski, four others test positive for COVID-19, will miss playoff game vs. Steelers

By Blake Harper | Last updated 1/5/21

Kevin Stefanski has done a phenomenal job in his first season as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, helping the franchise reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002. However, the Browns will have to play their first postseason game in nearly two decades without their coach, as Stefanski is one of five members of the organization who have tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the upcoming game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Along with Stefanski, two coaches and two players tested positive and all five will not be available for the game. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the coaches are a tight ends coach and defensive backs coach, while NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on Twitter that left guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge are the two players who tested positive.

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Browns To Hire Kevin Stefanski As Head Coach

The Browns will hire Vikings offensive coordinator  Kevin Stefanski  as their new head coach, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports (via Twitter) that it’s a done deal. Stefanski was the runner-up for the Cleveland head coaching gig last year, and after Freddie Kitchen‘s disastrous 2019 campaign resulted in his dismissal, the Browns have circled back to the man many believe they should have hired in the first place.

Stefanski has served in a variety of roles for the Vikings since joining the organization back in 2006, including stints as the tight ends coach, running backs coach, and quarterbacks coach. The 37-year-old was named interim offensive coordinator following the firing of John DeFilippo during the 2018 season, and he earned the full-time gig prior to the 2019 campaign.

During Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points. The coach led the trio of Dalvin CookAlexander Mattison, and Mike Boone to top-six rankings in rushing yards and touchdowns, and he also helped quarterback Kirk Cousins have one of the best seasons of his career. Although the Vikings laid an egg in Saturday’s divisional round loss to the 49ers, Cleveland was obviously undeterred.

The Browns’ coaching search saw them interview eight candidates, as our 2020 head coaching search tracker shows (former Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who ultimately accepted the Panthers’ head coaching job, turned down the opportunity to interview with Cleveland). Browns chief strategist Paul DePodesta piloted the search, and recent reports indicated that he had narrowed his list to Stefanski and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. But DePodesta, who wanted Stefanski last year, got his wish this year.

Interestingly, DePodesta’s contract with Cleveland is reportedly set to expire, but given his role in the coaching search, it seems likely that the Browns will retain him. However, the team continues to search for a new general manager, and Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry may have just become the leading candidate for that role, as his analytically-driven approach meshes with Stefanski’s.

Meanwhile, Vikings QB coach Klint Kubiak could follow Stefanski to Cleveland to become the Browns’ new offensive coordinator, as Mike Klis of 9News.com tweets.

With the Stefanski hire, the 2020 head coaching cycle has come to a stop. The Browns were the last of the five teams with a head coaching vacancy this year to hire their head coach.

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Originally posted on Pro Football Rumors  |  By Rory Parks  |  Last updated 1/12/20