Will Kevin Stefanski work out as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns?
After two decades of dumb, did the Cleveland Browns finally get it right with Kevin Stefanski?
Blind squirrels occasionally find nuts. It seems that one of the worst-run franchises in North American professional sports have mined a gem with their new head coach. Stefanski brings an Ivy League education and a strong, well-documented offensive philosophy to a Browns organization that has been otherwise directionless since coming back into the NFL in 1999.
The former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator has learned from excellent offensive minds such as Gary Kubiak and Pat Shurmur in recent seasons. Being on a defensive-minded head coach’s staff in Mike Zimmer, Stefanski has seen what playing complementary football can do for a franchise. The Vikings may be the best team in the NFL to not get to a Super Bowl in the 2010s.
Cleveland was one of five franchises to hire a new head coach this offseason. The Browns took their time on this hire, as they were the last organization to fill their head coaching vacancy. Even though he’s a first-time head coach, we have a pretty good feeling about Stefanski’s ability to guide Cleveland back into the AFC playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Kevin Stefanski will be the adult in the room the Browns have needed.
Since coming back into the league as an expansion franchise in 1999, the Browns have run through head coaches like Larry King does wives. Over the same span, the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers have had two coaches in Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. The same principle applies to the team that used to be the Browns in the Baltimore Ravens with Brian Billick and John Harbaugh.
Simply put, a franchise cannot win if its crumbling up the blueprints and starting over every time a U.S. Congressman is up for re-election. By adding Stefanski and pairing him with another Ivy Leaguer in new general manager Andrew Berry, the Browns have the brainpower to finally succeed long-term in this league. Perhaps the Browns will stop doing dumb stuff every year now?
Stefanski will begin to implement his offensive philosophy of using the run to open up the pass. He inherits two outstanding running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, as well as a receiving corps that just might be the best in football. The guy has two of everything. All he needs is for third-year starting quarterback Baker Mayfield to play within himself and be like Kirk Cousins.
If Mayfield can play like the Vikings quarterback, Cleveland can win 10 games this year and make the playoffs. There is so much potential with this team, but it is a matter of turning that potential energy into kinetic energy in the form of wins. The Browns can’t use helmets as weapons any more, throw the medical staff under the bus or get fined for wearing expensive watches in games.
While ownership may get in the way of Berry and Stefanski’s plans, things are actually looking up regarding the three teams Jimmy Haslam cares deeply about: The Browns, the Tennessee Volunteers and Columbus Crew SC. Stefanski will work like Jeremy Pruitt has at Haslam’s alma mater and Caleb Porter has with the Haslam’s recently purchased MLS club. We have hope here.
It’s hard to explain, but from the looks of it, the hiring of Stefanski feels different for the Browns. He has a chance to win as much as Marty Schottenheimer did for them in the 1980s. You can sense the beginning stages of stability for the first time in Cleveland in who knows how long. We’re all hoping Stefanski makes the Browns relevant because their fans deserve good football.
Don’t be shocked if Stefanski has the most success of any new head coach in the NFL this season.