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The Browns coaching search delivered alignment, but how about leadership? — Bud Shaw’s Sports Spin

The hiring of Kevin Stefanski was probably inevitable with Chief of Strategy Paul DePodesta in charge of the search.

CLEVELAND — In all those interviews Jimmy Haslam and his son-in-law did with Browns players — 25 to 30 according to the owner — there was one recurring theme, or so we were told.

“Players want leadership,” Haslam said the day after New Year’s. “They really do want strong leadership.”

You don’t know if that’s Kevin Stefanski’s best quality. I don’t know either.

Jimmy Haslam and Paul DePodesta had better.

Obviously, the Browns satisfied the organizational desire for alignment in hiring Stefanski, the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator. An even stronger case will be made for that if Chief of Strategy Paul DePodesta’s “process” results in Andrew Berry joining up as GM.

But Ivy League symmetry and a shared appreciation for the role of analytics is only part it, or at least should be.

Success in the NFL comes when 53 guys in the locker room believe in the head coach, trust in his approach and feel confident he gives them an advantage on game days.

Stefanski should get a chance to make that happen (he will, right Jimmy?) But it’s understandable if the players Haslam talked to don’t immediately see beyond the owner firing one guy who’d never been a head coach before to hiring another guy who’s never been a head coach before.

Mike McCarthy and Ron Rivera weren’t going to walk in that door. (Mostly because Rivera never interviewed and McCarthy walked in, out, then into the Cowboys job).

The rest of the candidate list fulfilled Haslam’s promise of “NFL experience” but only Josh McDaniels had been a head coach. And the argument elevating his Denver experience in 2009-10 as beneficial was the same one made for Hue Jackson’s year spent as head coach of the Raiders. That they would learn from it. Not always, it turns out.

Did McDaniels demand sweeping organizational changes that Haslam wasn’t prepared to deliver? That’s been speculated.

Does that mean his way would’ve worked? Getting fired in Denver doesn’t make him any more proven than Stefanski.

Would McDaniels have carried more clout with players based on his connection to Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Super Bowl confetti? Maybe. We’ll never know.

That’s the only fair reaction to what Haslam has done in this coaching search. Who knows?

He trusted DePodesta, Sashi Brown and Andrew Berry once upon a time until he didn’t. Then he trusted football men like John Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens until he stopped. Now he’s back to believing in DePodesta who thought highly of Stefanski a year ago and wanted the owner to hire Sean McDermott instead of Hue Jackson in 2016.

In the Browns organization, you can gain traction by not being as recently wrong as someone else.

And when you’ve been as wrong as Haslam has been, no wonder you’d want to delegate the hiring process.

We’ll find out sooner or later if Haslam found the right guy to lead his team or just the right fit for his front office.

And with the Browns under Haslam it’s almost always sooner.

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