NFL teams have a habit of hiring head coaches who are the exact opposite of the head coach they just fired. The announcement from the Cleveland Browns regarding their new coach makes it crystal clear that the next guy is the polar opposite of the last guy.
“We are thrilled to welcome Kevin as the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement issued by the team. “We were looking for a strong leader of this football team, a very bright coach with a high football IQ, who could establish a strong understanding of what he expected of his players, hold them accountable and confidently navigate the challenges and opportunities that present themselves throughout a season. Kevin exemplifies these qualities and more. He has a tremendous ability to relate well and communicate well with his players, has experienced many coaching facets of a team, and understands how to put them in the best position to succeed while also establishing a winning culture. Kevin, Michelle and their family will be tremendous additions to the Cleveland community and we look forward to having him lead our football team.”
Stefanski was a candidate a year ago, when former Browns G.M. John Dorsey rolled the dice on Freddie Kitchens and ultimately crapped out of a job. This time around, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta got the guy he wanted in 2019.
“It’s very exciting obviously for me and my family,” Stefanski said in a statement. “We’re really looking forward to moving out here and getting situated in Cleveland and the adventure of it all. From my professional level, I just could not be more eager to get to work with this group. I think we have some really good players here. I think we have some outstanding people in this building. I know we have to add a G.M. and add some more pieces to this puzzle. I think the eager part for me is to get to work, buckle down and start to put together a program. Before you know it, the players are back in the building and we’re going to be putting a system together offensively, defensively, etc. I think that’s the fun part, when these guys get back in this building.”
Stefanski spent 14 years with the Vikings, arriving with coach Brad Childress.
“When I moved out there in 2006, it was never, ‘Hey, I’m going to be here for the next 14 years and then I’m going to leave to be the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns,'” Stefanski said. “That was definitely not the grand plan. My grand plan was just to show up every day and do my job to the best of my ability. That organization holds a special place in my heart. They have great ownership. There’s tremendous people throughout that building starting with the G.M., head coach are just really good people. To be able to have been there and grow as a person, grow as a coach is incredible.”
The reward, in the aftermath of one of his worst performances as an offensive coordinator, is his first head coaching job, at the age of 37.
“I just kind of chased this thing and here’s where it landed right now,” Stefanski said.
Like a dog chasing a car, Stefanski caught it. What he does with it now, and how the denizens of the Dawg Pound react to him, remains to be seen.