After another disappointing season in Cleveland, where Freddie Kitchens was fired as quickly as he was hired, the Browns look to build around new offensive-minded head coach Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski steps into a situation that most new coaches can only dream of, with a team that is fresh off a strong rebuild that has nowhere to go but up. Cleveland is familiar with this narrative; they go through head coaches almost as quickly as they dispose of first-round quarterbacks. Stefanski will be the tenth head coach for the Cleveland Browns since their return to the NFL in 2000. Long-time Cleveland fans are going to have the same skepticisms about Stefanski and will tell you that they have seen this movie one too many times. What sets him apart from the rest? Is Kevin Stefanski the answer? What sets Stefanski apart from the typical Browns’ head coach is his resume as a coach in the NFL.
Despite having no head coaching experience, Stefanski survived three head coaches and five offensive coordinators during his fourteen year tenure in Minnesota. In order for a coach to persevere through that many changes, they have to demonstrate an ability to acclimate to a new regime and be seen as someone who adds value to not only the coaching staff, but the team as well. But Stefanski hasn’t only existed on the Minnesota coaching staff all these years, he has made their offense relevant despite never having a star at the most important position in football, the quarterback.
Kirk Cousins is nothing more than a slightly above average quarterback in today’s NFL, even though his $30M+ a year contract would say otherwise. Cousins’ numbers have improved across the board thanks to Stefanski. Under Stefanski, the Vikings have been able to open up the passing game by implementing a run heavy ground game, led by star running back Dalvin Cook. Cousins has set career bests in completion percentage and touchdown to interception ratio with Stefanski as the Offensive Coordinator. Along with the success from Cousins, journeyman-QB and current Cleveland backup Case Keenum also had his career best year under Stefanski, posting a 3:1 TD/INT ratio and leading the Vikings to a playoff berth.
Stefanski has proven that he can elevate an NFL offense with a shortage of talent. Now put Stefanski in a situation with no shortage of talent: a Heisman winning, NFL record setting, third year QB, two of the most talented Wide Receivers in the league, one of the most productive tight ends during the 2019-2020 season, and two top tier running backs, one of which was second in the league in rushing last year. Stefanski is taking over an offense that may have the most star power in the NFL. It seems like a perfect recipe for a playoff run in Cleveland. Hopefully the front office and the rest of the coaching staff can get on the same page and avoid the same song and dance that has plagued them for two decades.