Browns hiring former NFL back Duce Staley to coach team's running backs, AP source says

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns filled one of the vacancies on their coaching staff while bracing for a possible major departure.

Coach Kevin Stefanski has hired Duce Staley, a 10-year NFL veteran, as his new running backs coach, a person familiar with the addition told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Staley was fired in Carolina last season.

Staley, who also interviewed with the New York Jets, will replace the recently fired Stump Mitchell, said the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Browns are not commenting on any coaching moves until Stefanski fills out his staff.

Mitchell was dismissed with a year left on his contract last week along with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and tight ends coach T.C. McCartney just days after the Browns were beaten 45-14 by the Houston Texans in the AFC playoffs.

The 48-year-old Staley will take over a running backs group with some question marks. Former Pro Bowler Nick Chubb is expected to miss the start of next season after undergoing two knee surgeries to repair torn knee ligaments sustained in Week 2.

Jerome Ford and Pierre Strong Jr. will be back next season, but it's not yet known if the team will re-sign Kareem Hunt, who was released by Cleveland but returned after Chubb got hurt and scored nine touchdowns.

Staley gained 5,785 yards while playing for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

As Stefanski reshapes his staff, there's a possibility he could lose well-regarded offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who may join his son Brian's staff in Tennessee. T he younger Callahan was officiall y hired Wednesday by the Titans as Mike Vrabel's replacement.

Bill Callahan did a sensational job this season in Cleveland after the team lost both starting tackles to injuries.

"Coach Callahan’s been instrumental for us,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “He’s helped develop a bunch of us on the line. We’re thankful for that. He’s one of the hardest workers. I know he puts in the time with us and he’s a big part of the run game with the schemes and the protections.

“But if your son calls, you might need to take that phone call. That’s pretty special stuff. So we understand either way and we’re hopeful he’s still around for us to help us next year.”

The Browns are hiring former Alabama offensive coordinator and Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, who will coach the tight ends and may have other duties.

Stefanski has already interviewed Seattle offensive line coach Andy Dickerson, former Buffalo coordinator Ken Dorsey and Texans quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson for the coordinator vacancy. Johnson is a candidate for several openings around the league.