It appears the New England Patriots won’t need to replace their offensive coordinator after all.
The Cleveland Browns decided Sunday to hire Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, not Josh McDaniels, as their new head coach, according to multiple reports.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport was the first to report the hiring. Stefanski’s season ended Saturday with a 27-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round.
McDaniels, an Ohio native who had been considered a front-runner for the Cleveland job, interviewed with the Browns for roughly seven hours Friday after having scheduled sitdowns with the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants canceled earlier in the week.
Keeping McDaniels in the fold will provide some much-needed offensive stability during what could be a transitionary offseason for the Patriots. Quarterback Tom Brady is set to hit free agency in March for the first time in his NFL career and could sign elsewhere if he so chooses. (It remains possible that a QB-needy team could fire its head coach in the coming months and pursue Brady and McDaniels as a package deal.)
Head coach Bill Belichick already had at least two holes to fill on his coaching staff after Joe Judge, the Patriots’ special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach, left to take over the Giants. Judge has yet to finalize his coaching staff and could take one or more Patriots assistant with him to New York, as well.
McDaniels has been New England’s offensive coordinator for each of the last eight seasons and 12 of the last 15. The 43-year-old initially joined the Patriots as a personnel assistant in 2001 and has been with the team for all six of its Super Bowl championships.
One of the top offseason priorities for Belichick and McDaniels will be finding a way to revitalize an offense that was unusually ineffective during New England’s disappointing 2019 campaign.
After racing to an 8-0 start, the Patriots scored 25-plus points just once in their last nine games. They lost five of those games — four of them at home — including one to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17 that robbed them of a first-round playoff bye and another to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round that ended their season.
The Browns went 6-10 this season under first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, whom the team fired last week.