The Detroit Lions made a deal with Matt Patricia, New England’s defensive coordinator, to be their new coach during the two-week break before the Super Bowl in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 2018.
The Philadelphia Eagles, with Nick Foles at quarterback, lit up the Patriots for 538 yards in the ZygiDome shootout, and scored a 41-33 upset victory.
Detroit was then left to announce officially one day later that Patricia, the architect along with head coach Bill Belichick of that futile defensive effort 18 hours earlier, would be its next coach.
We smirked and asked, “Who else but the Lions?’’
We now have the answer: the Browns.
Last week, Cleveland officials came to the Twin Cities to interview Kevin Stefanski, the Vikings offensive coordinator. The Browns also had interviewed Stefanski after last season, as the replacement for interim Gregg Williams, who had replaced the fired Hue Jackson during the 2018 season.
The Browns went with an internal hire, the aptly-named Freddie Kitchens, and then fired him at the end of this season. That increased Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s number of head coaches fired to five in eight seasons. It also allowed Kitchens to join Rob Chudzinski as being fired after getting one season as Haslam’s head coach.
The likelihood was Haslam knew Stefanski was his choice this time, but the Browns had to make it look like a search, so the trip was made to Minnesota last week.
The interview was a mild interruption in the Vikings’ short week of preparation before heading to the West Coast to play San Francisco in the second round of the NFC playoffs.
Back in December, the offense ordered by coach Mike Zimmer (run, then run some more) -- and crafted by Stefanski and wise old Gary Kubiak – was an abomination in a showdown game with Green Bay.
It was so bad that it became freaky visit to a football time machine; more like Murray Warmath’s Gophers in a battle with Jack Mollenkopf’s Purdue Boilermakers in the 1960s at Memorial Stadium than a modern NFL game in Minnesota’s $1.15 billion gift to Zygi Wilf.
The Vikings had seven first downs and 139 yards against a Packers’ defense with a modest resume. That made the regular-season finale against the Bears meaningless, and the Vikings lost that December exhibition.
This was followed by the upset playoff victory over New Orleans in the Superdome – with an offense featuring the smashing runs of Dalvin Cook and rookie Alex Mattison, and the best clutch effort of quarterback Kirk Cousins’ NFL career.
Who could have guessed in the six-day run up to the game with the 49ers that “7’’ would return as a magic number for the Vikings’ offense?
They had seven first downs again Saturday, this time with 147 yards, in the 27-10 loss. At one point, Stefanski’s offense went 27 minutes without a first down.
On Sunday, it became public Stefanski will be the next head coach for the Browns, the next wanted poster on Haslam’s office wall.
Funny thing is, Stefanski was mentored in Minnesota by Pat Shurmur, and he might want to bring the fired Giants’ coach to Cleveland, but Shurmur was the coach inherited and thus the first to be fired by Haslam after the 2012 season.
I believe there have been some suggestions that Shurmur is less thanan admirer of the Browns’ wacky owner.
Oh, well. Certainly, the Browns fanatics that happened to tune to Saturday’s NFC game, and watched the Vikings soar from 81 yards to 147 on their last two garbage-time possessions, are thrilled by what they witnessed -- as well as the idea young, trim Stefanski will now be the coach trying to convince quarterback Baker Mayfield not to behave (and often play) like an idiot..
That last look at Stefanski’s Vikings offense … there hasn’t been such a confidence builder for a new fan base since Patricia brought the Patriots’ Super Bowl effort with him to Detroit. And look at big Matt -- he hasn't been fired yet.