Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has left former CFL bench boss and senior defensive assistant Chris Jones off of his new coaching staff.
However, it’s because Jones is being shifted to a role in the front office. Jones signed a two-year contract last January, which means he’s tied to Cleveland through the 2020 season.
Chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta was heavily involved in the head coach interviews and holds a lot of power within Cleveland’s franchise. DePodesta is known for his use of analytics in building a team. He was part of the ‘Moneyball’ strategy in Major League Baseball with the Oakland Athletics and served as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ general manager for two seasons.
DePodesta is a fan of Jones and that’s a key factor because of the Browns’ organizational setup. The 47-year-old DePodesta won an internal battle with former Cleveland general manager John Dorsey as the latter was fired in December. That came just days after Freddie Kitchens was relieved of his head coach duties by the Browns.
Cleveland ended the 2019 season with a 33-23 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals who were the NFL’s worst team with a 2-14 win-loss record. The Browns went 6-10 in the first and only year under Kitchens; it was a season that ended well below expectations prior to the regular schedule starting in September.
Dorsey was the man who called the Saskatchewan Roughriders to ask for permission to interview Jones. It was ultimately a combination of Dorsey and Kitchens who decided to bring Jones to Cleveland. Meanwhile, other NFL teams conducted extensive research on Jones and gained insight into the former Mr. Everything in Saskatchewan.
The Riders improved their win total each year under Jones going from five wins to 10 and 12 in 2018. Jones led Saskatchewan to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons after the franchise failed to make the post-season since 2014. He was named the CFL’s coach of the year in 2018, but had an out clause in his extension which had been signed with the Riders.
Jones is 53-37 as a head coach in Canada and won the 2015 Grey Cup championship with the Edmonton Eskimos. He would be highly coveted by teams north of the border for his defensive excellence. However, the new men in charge in Cleveland have recognized Jones’ abilities for coaching defence and assessing talent.
For example, Jones was on the road scouting the Shrine Game for the Browns.