Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has yet to have what might be considered a normal day since arriving in Cleveland.
Shortly after being hired for his first head coaching position in 2020, Stefanski had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, an altered offseason program and training camp, no preseason games, and players missing time during the regular season to injuries and COVID.
All he did was lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002, first playoff win since the 1994 season, and pick up Coach of the Year honors.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Stefanski is once again rolling with the changes as the Browns embark on yet another virtual offseason program.
In any other year, the players and coaches would be at team headquarters in Berea this week for the opening sessions of voluntary offseason workouts. But with the NFLPA encouraging players to stay away from team facilities and conduct the program virtually, Stefanski and the coaching staff are once again communicating with the team over the Internet.
HC Kevin Stefanski meets with the media live: https://t.co/iQNS8a3zJQ— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) April 20, 2021
Stefanski met with the media on Tuesday and said this is all just another challenge that he is embracing, according to a team-provided transcript:
“We started meetings yesterday, a really good one today. Looking forward to covering a lot of ground with the guys. It is an exciting time for us as we start the offseason program. I think the guys are engaged. We are in Phase 1 so it is just Day 2 of Phase 1, but I think the guys are doing a nice job.
“Really, I know that we are in Day 2 of the offseason program. As you can imagine, I respect our players. I respect the voluntary portion of this. You also know I am a coach and I think we have really outstanding coaches here who cannot wait to get on the grass with our players. We will figure it out as it goes, but we are just going to make sure we are in the here and now as we go.”
The ability of Stefanski and the coaching staff to continually adapt, or “figure it out as it goes,” was a key component of Cleveland’s success last season and should benefit the team again this year. An NFL season is unpredictable, even in the best of times, and Stefanski’s calm demeanor is a true asset to the team.
Other highlights of Stefanski’s time with the media include the following.
Stefanski is open to the idea of the Browns bringing back defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson if the opportunity presents itself:
“Sheldon in particular played really productive football for us. He played through injuries, and he took great pride in getting to the playoffs for the first time in his career. He was a big part of that. I hope there is a scenario like you mentioned, but those are the hard decisions that are made. I really want to point out that Sheldon was such a big part of what we did last year.”
Stefanski is also aware of how the 2019 collapsed under the weight of preseason expectations and is working to make sure that does not happen this season:
“It is something that I talk to the players about and some of those aspirations that you have heard them talk about. It is very, very easy to talk about that. It is very easy for me to say that we want to do this and we want to be this, but we are going to focus on the work. That is what we did last year, and I promise you, that is what we will do this year. We are not going to focus on anything out there that people are talking about because ultimately, we are going to be about the work.”
The team’s injured players are progressing nicely:
“(Odell Beckham Jr.) is progressing very well. He is trending in the right direction. Odell, (S) Grant Delpit and (CB) Greedy (Williams), I think they are all on track. I do not know the exact date that is for all of those guys, but really like how they are progressing. In particular, Greedy continues to get good news, and I am just so happy for the kid. He just battled his butt off in the rehab room for months and had a great attitude throughout. I am just really, really happy for him as he keeps getting better and better. He has a ways to go, but he is trending in the right direction.”
He approves (naturally) of the work that general manager Andrew Berry has done in free agency:
“We are trying to make ourselves a better football team. I think Andrew saw some opportunities to add players to this roster. We feel like we have gotten better on the defensive side of the ball, and we are creating competition. We are going to have a draft where we are going to create even more competition and hopefully bring in good players. Excited for bringing in guys at all three levels of the defense and what that can mean to us moving forward.”
On working with quarterback Baker Mayfield in their second season together:
“All of our players are meeting with their position coaches this week throughout tomorrow and Thursday, and they are going to go over their player improvement plan. Baker is no different than the rest of the guys. They will have a list of things they need to work on, and as coaches, we are giving them the resources, the tools and the things they need to do to improve those. Some are watching more tape, some are drills and really all of the above. Baker, as we have talked about, is somebody who constantly wants to get better. (Offensive coordinator) Alex Van Pelt has a really, really strong plan in how we are going to attack that with Baker in particular, but I can also tell you I have 70-plus improvement plans on my desk for each player. We just think it is important everybody understands we have to improve and then it is our job to give the avenues to improve.”
The upcoming NFL season is going to be filled with situations that no one expected.
But with the way that Stefanski has rolled with the changes during his time with the Browns, there might not be anything that throws him off his game.