The Browns have their new head coach in place, and it appears he might be bringing someone from Minnesota along with him.
Vikings assistant general manager George Paton is expected to interview for Cleveland's vacant general manager job, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the situation. This development is significant, Rapoport added, because Paton hasn't always accepted interview requests, but is close with Kevin Stefanski, whom the Browns announced Monday as its new head coach.
"We are thrilled to welcome Kevin as the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns," Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement released by the team Monday evening. "We were looking for a strong leader of this football team, a very bright coach with a high football IQ, who could establish a strong understanding of what he expected of his players, hold them accountable and confidently navigate the challenges and opportunities that present themselves throughout a season. Kevin exemplifies these qualities and more.
"He has a tremendous ability to relate well and communicate well with his players, has experienced many coaching facets of a team, and understands how to put them in the best position to succeed while also establishing a winning culture. Kevin, Michelle and their family will be tremendous additions to the Cleveland community and we look forward to having him lead our football team."
Rapoport reported it's a five-year deal for Stefanski.
He is making the move to Cleveland after a season and a half spent as Minnesota's offensive coordinator, where he worked with veteran coach Gary Kubiak in building an offense around the Vikings' playmakers en route to a wild-card berth and run to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.
"It's very exciting obviously for me and my family," Stefanski said in the same statement. "We're really looking forward to moving out here and getting situated in Cleveland and the adventure of it all. From my professional level, I just could not be more eager to get to work with this group. I think we have some really good players here. I think we have some outstanding people in this building.
"I know we have to add a GM and add some more pieces to this puzzle. I think the eager part for me is to get to work, buckle down and start to put together a program. Before you know it, the players are back in the building and we're going to be putting a system together offensively, defensively, etc. I think that's the fun part, when these guys get back in this building."
Such work began Monday with Stefanski's arrival, and it didn't take long for him to identify Minnesota's highly respected personnel man, Paton, as a potential candidate for the GM job.
Paton was a favorite of the San Francisco 49ers' GM search back in January 2017, a process that ultimately led to the hiring of John Lynch, and Paton has been targeted more than once by the New York Jets for their previous GM openings, though he's turned down interviews with the organization. Paton has spent more than a decade working with the Vikings, who kept the Packers from prying him from their control in late 2017, too.
Paton is one of two leading candidates for the position in Cleveland, with former Browns and current Eagles executive Andrew Berry being the other. Berry was also a target of the Panthers, who requested permission to interview him for an executive vice president job; the Eagles denied the request, Rapoport reported. Philly can't deny Cleveland's request because it's for the GM vacancy.
For Paton to take the interview, this should be considered somewhat serious. Check back for additional updates on this process, which could be swift with Stefanski already in place.