Under the Haslams, they’re now 5-0 thanks to a charismatic debut from Kevin Stefanski Tuesday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“I’m not going to stand up here and make any bold predictions about what we’re going to do this year,” Stefanski said. “I’m not going to speak anything into existence right now. I can just promise you that we’re going to work.”
The 18th head coach in Browns history and the 10th full-time hire in the post 1999 expansion era hit all the right notes and struck the right chords in his first appearance since the team decided Sunday morning to hire him.
Stefanski playfully sought advice from reporters about which side of town to live on – east or west side. He joked about the promises he made to his family including a trip to Disney World and a new dog – side note, he’ll love the puppy pound at training camp. He acknowledged the distinguished alumni of the franchise and of course its die hard, yet long suffering and tormented fan base.
He looked the part while also addressing the elephant in the room – the constant change that continues to blow through the Browns like a hurricane.
“I understand that and for me, and it’s easy, the focus is 2020. We’re not looking backward, we’re moving forward,” Stefanski said. “And I hope all of our players know that, too. When they walk in the building, whenever it is in April, we’re moving forward. And anything that’s happened in the past does not affect our future.”
Owner Jimmy Haslam sang the same song he’s sung dating back to the hiring of Rob Chudzinski in 2013.
“We're highly confident he'll be our head coach for a long time,” Haslam said.
Cleveland passed on Stefanski a year ago, opting to promote Freddie Kitchens instead after meeting twice with the team in 2019, yet Stefanski gave it another try in 2020.
“I am undeterred. And I’m undaunted,” Stefanski said. “And I think the challenge is there and I can’t wait to be a part of this change.”
Stefanski has already spoken with key players going forward, including quarterback Baker Mayfield as well as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
The trio are known for their unique personalities, which doesn’t bother their new coach in the least as long as they deliver when it counts.
“Personality is welcome. Your production is required,” Stefanski said.
As far as analytics and incorporating the work led by chief strategy Paul DePodesta that has some worried about the direction of the franchise, Stefanski welcomes the extra attention to detail that will be provided to him.
“I'm looking for any edge we can get on game day,” Stefanski said. “We're looking to make informed decisions, so as a play-caller, information is power. I think our setup that we have, I think we're well on our way, we can provide impactful information to our coaches.”
Stefanski isn’t sure if he’ll call plays. It depends how his coaching staff shakes out.
“I have had really good conversations with a bunch of head coaches, some that have called the plays, some that have not,” Stefanski said. “I just think we need to work through that as we put our staff together. Again, I am all about what is best for the Cleveland Browns. If that is me calling the plays, great. If it is not, I am fine with that too.”
It was quite the contrast from the previous two head coaches, who immediately declared they were the best and only option for the job.
Stefanski doesn’t view the Browns as a rebuild, which is why he took the job. That in and of itself should be music to the ears of fans worried anther rebuild and master plan to fix the worst franchise in the league over the last 21 years is about to commence.
“That is where this job was so attractive to me because not only do we have the right people in the building, we have the right players in the building,” Stefanski said.
Haslam spoke of alignment on Jan. 2 being a driving force in the new coach and GM search. It’s easy to see how Stefanski fits perfectly with the direction the franchise is aiming for.
“I can tell you we have outstanding people in that building,” Stefanski said. “It's about people. For us to build our winning culture, it's going to take each and every member.”
Last season the Brows lacked leadership.
That’s why Stefanski is here.
“My leadership style is to be authentic,” Stefanski said. “I'm going to be me, and I think that's good enough. I want to lead from a relationship standpoint, I want them to understand what I'm about. I want to be the point guard for this organization.”
Time will tell just how long he’ll be allowed to lead in Cleveland.