BEREA, Ohio – Cleveland Browns General Manager Ray Farmer on Tuesday announced a key addition to the organization, naming Bill Kuharich executive chief of staff.
Kuharich, whose 26-year career in pro football has earned him a strong reputation for his skills as a talent evaluator and organizational leader, initially joined the Browns as a consultant in February to assist Farmer with the NFL Draft.
“Bill provides us with an important asset as we move our team forward,” Farmer said. “We brought him in to help us with the 2014 draft and now we want to expand his role. Bill originally gave me my start in personnel and has played a part in every step of my career. He’s more than a mentor. He’s helped me become better at scouting players, better at being a father, and better at living life.
“Bill has seen it all in our game. He’s been a team president. He’s been a GM. He comes from a football family. He understands the landscape of the NFL. We’re very fortunate to have him on our team.”
Kuharich will play a pivotal role in the organization’s personnel moves, including the college and pro scouting departments, serving as a key cog in all facets of the Browns’ process of evaluating and acquiring talent. He also will assist Farmer in key decisions, other personnel matters and the team’s overall strategic vision.
The son of the late Joe Kuharich, a longtime college and NFL head coach and executive, Bill developed his instincts and knowledge at an early age. But the two individuals that most shaped Kuharich’s football philosophy and career were Carl Peterson and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Finks.
One of Finks’ first hires when he joined the New Orleans Saints in 1986, Kuharich quickly became Finks’ chief advisor in providing personnel for head coach Jim Mora. After 20 seasons without a winning record or playoff berth, the Saints finished 12-3 in 1987. With Kuharich as director of player personnel, the Saints made the playoffs four times from 1987-92 and registered the franchise’s first division title in 1991.
As Finks battled cancer and his health steadily declined, he selected Kuharich to succeed him. Appointed vice president/director of football operations in January 1994, four months before Finks passed away, Kuharich was eventually promoted by owner Tom Benson in 1996 to executive vice president/general manager. Then, a year later, Kuharich was guiding both the football and business operations of the team as president, general manager and chief operating officer.
In 2000, Kuharich moved from the Saints to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he served as director of pro personnel for six seasons (2000-05), and vice president of player personnel for four years (2006-09). Reunited with Peterson, for whom he’d worked in the USFL in the 1980s, Kuharich helped the Chiefs obtain five players who served as the nucleus of the Chiefs’ core talent in leading them to the 2013 playoffs, Pro Bowlers Tamba Hali, Dwayne Bowe, Branden Albert, Brandon Flowers and Jamaal Charles.
In 2002, Kuharich helped orchestrate the trade that brought Willie Roaf to Kansas City. While some believed Roaf’s career was over, Kuharich knew better and convinced Peterson to trade for the player Kuharich drafted with the Saints in 1993. Four straight Pro Bowls with the Chiefs solidified Roaf’s bid for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where he was enshrined in 2012.
Kuharich got his start in a pro front office with the United States Football League, where he worked with Peterson in acquiring personnel for the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars. During the league’s three-year existence (1983-85), the Stars were 48-13-1, played in every USFL title contest, and won the championship twice. Kuharich permeated the Stars’ roster with players such as LB Sam Mills, C Bart Oates, T Irv Eatman and RB Kelvin Bryant.
Before the USFL, Kuharich was a graduate assistant coach at Brown in 1976. For two years, he worked for the United States Department of Defense while serving as a volunteer assistant coach at Georgetown. In 1979, he returned to coaching, at St. Lawrence. He then coached two seasons (1980-81) at Columbia University.
A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, Kuharich has a bachelor’s degree in history. He also owns a master’s degree in education from St. Lawrence. Kuharich and his wife, Betsy, have three daughters, Megan, Alexis and Kelli.