Not Just Another Rookie Head Coach

In 2019 the Browns bandwagon filled up quickly with new fans and national pundits. The only reservation in sight seemed to be with the hiring of a head coach with no prior experience at the helm. Since the Browns returned to the league in 1999, they have only hired one head coach with NFL head coaching experience, Hue Jackson. This year, the pundits are again jumping on the bandwagon and a rookie head coach doesn’t seem to be the concern. Here are some video clips from NFL Network:

But to Browns fans it’s always a concern. What makes Kevin Stefanski different?

Stefanski’s college experience was on defense, he was a defensive back at the University of Pennsylvania where he was twice an All-Ivy League selection. Despite spending his entire college career on defense, Stefanski spent his NFL career on the offensive side of the ball. He was first hired by Vikings head coach Brad Childress as assistant to the head coach in 2006. He quickly climbed the latter of positional coaches becoming assistant QB coach in 2009, tight end coach in 2014, running back coach in 2016 and quarterbacks coach in 2017. As the assistant quarterbacks coach, he learned under Kevin Rogers and helped coach QB Brett Favre. Rogers’ extensive college coaching career included coaching Donovan McNabb to Big East Rookie of the year in 1994, 1997 Big East player of the year and a four time All Big East player. McNabb was the second pick in the 1999 NFL draft. As the offense coordinator at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish broke the school single-season record for total passing yards, completions and attempts.

When Mike Zimmer took over as Vikings head coach in 2014, Stefanski was promoted to tight ends coach for two years and spent one year as running backs coach. In 2017, he was promoted to quarterbacks coach after QB coach Scott Turner was terminated. Under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, he helped transform the Vikings offense to the NFL’s 10th highest scoring offense. Current Browns backup quarterback Case Keenum recorded his best season, throwing for 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. After Shurmur was hired as head coach of the Giants in 2018, Stefanski was QB coach under new OC John DeFilippo. When DeFilippo was fired after a week fourteen loss to the Seahawks, Stefanski was promoted to interim offensive coordinator. The Vikings saw immediate results, as they routed the Dolphins, scoring a season high 41 points and racking up 418 yards.

In 2019 Kevin Stefanski was promoted to full time offensive coordinator. The Vikings ranked eighth in the NFL in scoring offense averaging 25.4 points and were sixth in rushing offense averaging 133.3 yards a game. Although the Vikings were near the bottom in the league in passing offense, QB Kirk Cousins had the fourth best quarterback rating among NFL starters at 107.4. He threw for 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. At the time, when interviewed by the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph said of Stefanski, “He’s a big-time believer in it being about the players, not the plays. He told me at one point during the game last week that he can call whatever he wants because he has the confidence that we’re going to go out and execute. That’s what we’ve talked about all along. It’s not about the plays being called. It’s about the players going out and execute the plays that are being called.”

In 2018, the Vikings blocked the Giants from interviewing Stefanski for their offensive coordinator position under Pat Shurmur. “I think Kevin is a tremendous coach and obviously the Vikings feel the same way,” Shurmur told reporters at the time. “I think he has a bright future. He’s a good man and the Vikings did a good thing by keeping him — for the Vikings. I’m hopeful they have a great year as well.”  

Because of the coaches Stefanski has been associated with and the wide range of positional coaching he’s been in charge of, the Browns new wide zone offense is in good hands. With an improved offensive line, better tight ends, two stud running backs, a real fullback and two stud wide receivers, it is easy to see why optimism, while more tame, is still fueling the Browns heading into another season. Hopefully, this optimism is not unfounded.

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