In addition to installing the offensive and defensive schemes virtually, Stefanski has dedicated significant time during team meetings in recent weeks to address current events and allow his players to speak freely about their feelings and personal experiences in the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police department.
It would be easy for Stefanski to take a step back, but he’s done exactly the opposite not only with his messaging to his team but his own actions.
“My big message to all the guys has been to get in the arena,” Stefanski said. “We’re all about action.”
Stefanski is also getting involved.
He was among 1,400 signatures of athletes and coaches from the NFL, MLB and NBA attached to a letter submitted by the Players Coalition urging Congress to pass Ending Qualified Immunity Act.
“I did my homework, I did my research,” Stefanski said. “And I go back to, attach your name and that’s part of this.”
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry as well as defensive end Myles Garrett were among players from Cleveland to sign the petition.
Sunday, Stefanski joined Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and attended a protest in Avon along with his sons and mother.
“It was empowering,” Stefanski said. “You saw the passion. You saw the frustration. You saw the love. I think it was just a really enlightening moment for me and I was able to share that with my boys at a young age and I think that’s part of this – is making sure we are doing everything in our power to educate each other and especially the next generation.”
He also encouraged his players to attend peaceful protests too.
“We want to be a strong part of this community,” Stefanski said. “We want to be a strong part of positive change. I realize from my platform that I have here, that I am able to effect change.”
Stefanski spent 14 seasons with the Vikings as an assistant and the city of Minneapolis holds a special place in his heart especially because his three children were born there.
Watching the video of Floyd being killed by a Minneapolis police officer while three others failed to intervene as bystanders pleaded for his life, and the protests that followed Floyd’s death, was difficult.
“It was sad. It was heartbreaking. It was frustrating. It was maddening. It was all of those things,” Stefanski said.
Stefanski cancelled Tuesday’s meetings for Floyd’s funeral.
Stefanski avoided mentioning many names as to keep the focus on the message and not who might have delivered it, but he has been inviting guests to speak to the team during meetings as well as providing literature and podcasts for players to read and listen to.
“One Zoom meeting’s not going to solve this in any way, shape or form,” Stefanski said. “But I think unified action over the course of time can make a positive impact.
“Dialogue is great. Listening is outstanding, that’s part of the healing process. But now’s the time to make sure that we’re making positive change in our communities.”
The first-year head coach wants to make sure he along with his team are educated to ensure they invest their time and energy wisely.
Videos of police brutality going viral has become commonplace almost daily the last two weeks fueling the need and calls for change and the ability to hold officers accountable for their actions.
Anthem protests with NFL players taking a knee are likely to resume this fall in the wake of the violence that has followed Floyd’s death.
Stefanski was candid when asked if he would support such a demonstration from his team, like we saw during the 2017 preseason.
“I don’t know. I want to make sure that when we get together, it’s one of many issues we need to talk about in this movement.” Stefanski said. “That’s something I promise you we’ll spend as much time as necessary as an organization listening to each other, understanding each other, and then we’ll make a decision together. I hesitate to say because I want to make sure I’m sitting with our guys on things like that.”
Stefanski doesn’t waste his time talking the talk. He just walks the walk. Step by step with a team he's yet to meet.