The Cleveland Browns have big shoes to fill following the departure of offensive line coach Bill Callahan but Joe Thomas will not be the one to fill them.
Thomas is a legend in Cleveland. He’s a Hall of Famer and has 10 Pro Bowls to his name — all as a member of the Browns. Thomas would be a great fit, but he’s not interested in returning to coach on Kevin Stefanski’s staff.
“I’m not (interested) at this point,” Thomas told cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot on February 3. “I won’t be interested in NFL or college jobs until my kids are in college. Maybe not even then, but certainly not until then.”
Callahan was regarded as one of the best position coaches in the business. He departed to join his son, Brian Callahan, with the Tennessee Titans. Callahan had one more year left on his deal with the Browns but the team did not block the reunion after Brian Callahan was named the head man in Tennessee.
Brian Callahan expressed a desire to coach with his father and shared his reaction to the news after he landed the job with the Titans.
“I don’t know how many fathers and sons have been head coaches in the NFL. I don’t think it’s many,” Brian Callahan said on January 25. “And that’s a really prideful thing for him to be associated with.”
Bill Callahan spent the last four seasons as the Browns’ offensive line coach.
Browns Still Sorting Out Coaching Staff After Changes
The Browns made some significant coaching changes this offseason. The Browns parted ways with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, running backs coach Stump Mitchell and tight ends coach T.C. McCartney shortly after the end of the season.
The firing of Van Pelt had many in the Browns’ building “floored,” per NFL insider Albert Breer of the MMQB.
“The reason he was let go and Cleveland was because ownership and Paul DePodesta [Browns’ Chief Strategy Officer] — not Kevin Stefanski — were frustrated with the progress Deshaun Watson had made. I don’t think that they really, truly knew his value to that staff,” Breer said. “People on that staff — not so much Kevin but the people below him — were floored when they fired him.”
Van Pelt did not call the plays in Cleveland but helped the offense stay afloat despite a slew of injuries to key players. That included Watson, Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb and multiple starting offensive linemen.
“He was the glue of that staff,” Breer said. “Alex was the one that held that staff together.”
Van Pelt is well respected around the league and he quickly found a new gig. He was hired to be the New England Patriots offensive coordinator on February 1.
The Browns brought in former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to replace Van Pelt.
Browns Have Questions to Sort Out on Offensive Line
The Browns head into the offseason with some questions about their offensive line, which has been a strength of the squad since Stefanski took over in 2020.
Joel Bitonio, Wyatt Teller and Ethan Pocic hold down the interior. But things get dicier at tackle. The Browns’ top three tackles — Dawand Jones, Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills — will all be coming off season-ending injuries.
If they all return healthy next season, the team will have to decide on who starts. Wills and Conklin account for large cap hits. Conklin — who has played in 22 games over the last three seasons — comes in at $12 million. Wills is on his fifth-year option and will count $14.58 million against the cap.
Jones came in as a fourth-round pick but was forced into early action after a Week 1 injury to Conklin. He was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team and posted a solid grade of 64.7 on Pro Football Focus.
Whoever takes over for Callahan will have the tackle situation at the top of their list of things to attack.
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