The Cleveland Browns’ coaching staff has gone through numerous changes. Sometimes, that is a good thing. It does interrupt continuity and often, longtime working relationships.
Jeff Howard was the DB coach as well as Cleveland’s passing game coordinator, a job he held since head coach Kevin Stefanski brought him over from Minnesota in 2020. Howard is now the linebackers coach with the Los Angeles Chargers.
That suddenly left a hole with newly-minted DC Jim Schwartz’s defense.
Howard’s replacement? Well, part of that job duty has now gone to new safeties coach Ephraim (pronounced Ef-rum) Banda according to Pete Thamel of ESPN.
Banda grew up in Taft, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. It is just over two hours due south of San Antonio and three hours southwest of Houston.
His descendants came to the United States from Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
Banda attended Taft High School and played cornerback on the football squad. In his senior season, Taft lost in the Class 5A Division I state quarterfinals. He had offers from several small colleges, but he never followed up and worked instead. Banda was a player/coach of a local semi-pro team called the San Antonio Rhinos.
Years later, he enrolled in a college that was just beginning a football program.
Banda played his college football at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. The program was new when Banda joined and was originally a D-2 program. In 2013, the school moved to D-1 and played all of its games in a 6,000-seat stadium. It was a place where Banda had to share a locker with another player and bought his own cleats since start-up funds were minimal.
When Banda enrolled at Incarnate Word, he was already 25 years old. He was a walk-on at safety despite being just 5’9” and two years later, was named Captain of the special teams group. Now, he was on scholarship.
A knee injury ended Banda’s hopes of being a career football player. In a game against Texas A&M-Kingsville early in the 2011 season, Banda also played special teams like most good tacklers did. He was running up the field to block on a kickoff return and was involved in a collision. The end result was a badly damaged left knee. He knew right then that his playing career was over.
He was majoring in sports management and was just in his junior year. He also worked as a bartender at the San Antonio River Walk when he wasn’t studying or going to practice. Banda found out he was really good as a bartender and could make enough money to cover the cost of his classes and whatever living expenses he incurred.
But, he always wanted to coach and knew one day, that would become his destiny.
Two weeks after his knee injury, he had surgery to repair a torn ACL, a torn MCL, and a torn meniscus ligament. He had been “that old guy” on the roster now at age 29, but he was viewed as a natural leader who had a passion for the game and also had good communication.
What was next for Banda was to be named a student assistant/coach at Incarnate Word which was essentially his senior season but was able to finish his degree.
College staff break
The following year, an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Incarnate Word, Caesar Martinez, got a job at the University of Texas. Banda was intrigued and found out that the NCAA had doubled graduate assistant spots from two to four.
Martinez worked with Duane Akina, who coached the defensive backfield. With one open graduate assistant spot left, Martinez asked Akina if his friend could get the position. Akina’s response? “Does he work as hard as you?”
Banda was hired at Texas in 2012. The head coach was Mack Brown.
Banda was now in a situation where he had to work long hours as a graduate assistant while attending graduate school. This meant he did not have the time to have an outside job, but at the same time did not make much.
Then, on December 14, 2013, Brown announced he was stepping down as the head coach of Texas following their bowl game. Banda wondered what that meant for him as a staff member. The new guy was Charlie Strong who brought in some of his own coaches, one was a defensive coordinator which meant DC Manny Diaz was out. Banda stayed on at Texas as a graduate assistant and filled a variety of roles, from scripting practices and organizing scouting reports to assisting with the defensive backs.
During his tenure at Texas, Banda coached three players who would play in the NFL and also earned a second degree in communications.
In 2015, Diaz was hired as the DC and LB coach at Mississippi State under head coach Dan Mullen. Diaz then hired Banda as his defensive quality control coach. Then one season later, Diaz once again relocated to the University of Miami as their DC under head coach Mark Richt. Later that year, Diaz was a nominee for the Broyles Award given to college football’s top assistant coach.
After Diaz was hired in Miami, he convinced Richt to hire Banda as the Hurricanes’ safety coach, his first full-time assistant coaching position.
Even though Banda was a relatively young man, Diaz had all the faith in him. A defensive back coach is a very critical coaching hire because the group itself cannot make mistakes for the defense. Banda was known for being loyal, honest, hard-working, and making good decisions. Like still driving the car he owned in college, a Toyota Corolla.
On to the DC role
Banda became the co-defensive coordinator with Blake Baker in 2019 when Diaz left to become the head coach at Temple. Baker was almost the opposite of Banda and was considered “polarizing.” The Miami defense was ranked fourth in the nation in tackles for loss and ranked 18th in the nation in pass defense plus led the ACC in yards per pass attempt at just 6.75 yards.
While with Miami, Banda coached five players who would play in the NFL.
After two seasons, Banda was hired as DC at Utah State with added duties as safeties coach. The appeal was that now Banda would be able to call his own defense under head coach Blake Anderson. Banda’s defensive scheme was built on urgency, disruption, and physicality.
Now, Banda, age 41, is a position coach in the NFL. It is something of a homecoming for Banda who is widely known for his work coaching safeties. His style is aggressive, which Cleveland’s secondary needs.
Banda will see a familiar face with the Browns as he coached practice squad safety Bubba Bolden while at Miami.
The current safety room includes John Johnson III, Grant Delpit, D’Anthony Bell, and Bolden. Ronnie Harrison Jr. is an unrestricted free agent.
Banda’s Twitter handle is @CoachBanda.