I haven't seen this posted and thought it was relevant to this discussion. I'm posting it may bring to light some points that haven't been given consideration. To be transparent I do support extending Stefanski. This franchise has been seeking stability and continuity since 1999. It is at hand. Hopefully, that's being factored into the leadership decisions for the Browns.
It's Time to Lock up Kevin Stefanski as Browns Head Coach with Contract Extension
The Cleveland Browns victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers is just the latest example why the organization should lock up Kevin Stefanski as head coach for the foreseeable future.
Nov 20th, 9:34 AM
The debate is over. Kevin Stefanski has proven himself as one of the better coaches in the NFL and richly deserves a contract extension with the Cleveland Browns.
With their win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns have improved their record to 7-3. Stefanski has not only defeated the Baltimore Ravens and Steelers in back-to-back weeks, for the first time in franchise history, but they've won games this season with three different quarterbacks.
Stefanski has answered fair criticisms entering this season, such as beating good teams and meaningful wins within the division.
The Browns beat the San Francisco 49ers with P.J. Walker at quarterback when they were undefeated. They beat the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore when many believed they were the hottest team in the league. Now, they've beaten the Steelers at home with a rookie quarterback. All of those teams would be in the playoffs if the season ended today and the 49ers and Ravens would be among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
People are too focused on how Stefanski looks on the sideline rather than how players act on the field. Players across the board give everything they have in terms of effort. There's always this sense that the Browns are due to lose a game due to physical and emotional exhaustion, but they keep coming.
The team's culture is remarkable. Players constantly play for the person next to them, even when they have only arrived a week prior. A different player steps up and makes a contribution every single week.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson and James Proche made plays against the Steelers. Geron Christian has two starts at left tackle after being unsigned. Mike Ford had a big hit and then an interception against the Baltimore Ravens. James Hudson III seemed to just will the offense with his physicality in that victory. Every game, someone new seems to step up and make a play.
The Browns have a next man up, next play mentality. This didn't happen by accident. Stefanski's servant leadership has grown roots that have taken hold. Players have ownership of this team. They are empowered and trusted to make plays.
Amari Cooper having input to suggest players is a great example. A responsibility Cooper doesn’t take lightly. Most receivers are quick to say they're always open, but the second Stefanski listens to Cooper, that responsibility becomes real. He understands the weight of it and it has produced good results. It forces him to study to make sure he's right, keeping him engaged throughout the game as the team works to find solutions.
Stefanski, the Browns organization as a whole, has been actively trying to cultivate this environment since he arrived. Now, the team has a number of leaders. Myles Garrett has become the face of the defense, and the team in many respects, but they have a number of players taking on leadership roles, including second and third-year players. That has carried over to the field.
That process accelerated when the team was able to add professional, team-oriented veterans in the offseason. Dalvin Tomlinson, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, and Juan Thornhill stand out in this regard. With so many of these players locked up for the next few years, this has staying power.
Just as a coach, Stefanski has shown that experience matters. In his fourth season, Stefanski has looked the part of a veteran coach. Whether or not anyone believes the trip to the Greenbriar was impactful, Stefanski knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish in training camp and executed accordingly, which may be more important than anything that happened at the resort.
That has also carried over to games. Even as some continue to criticize Stefanski as a play caller, he has come up with clutch play calls on a weekly basis, often utilizing players in creative roles. From Nick Harris at fullback to Harrison Bryant as their short-yardage quarterback to putting all of the linemen on the field, those moves have worked, helping to cover for weaknesses caused by injury.
Stefanski's game management has been outstanding in a number of games this year. Just against the past two games, Stefanski and the offense managed to close out games effectively, a critical component in winning those games. With 4:55 left in the game against the Ravens, the Browns engineered a game-winning drive with the clock hitting zero as a fateful Dustin Hopkins kick flew between the uprights.
The Browns had 5:24 left in the first half against the Steelers. They executed a 17-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a field goal. The Steelers could only kneel out the half. Then their final drive went eight plays for 48 yards before Hopkins connected from 34 yards. The Steelers only had time for one desperate play.
This has been a theme this season. Against the Indianapolis Colts, the Browns scored 10 points to finish out the first half and then went 80 yards in 12 plays for the game-winning touchdown.
The Browns are winning on the margins.
Yes, you can hang the loss to the Seattle Seahawks loss on Stefanski for his decision to pass on 3rd-and-3. He's more than made up for it with these other performances and the fact of the matter is it's much easier to fix a single play call than everything that got them in that position in the first place.
Plenty of critics want to give all of the credit to Jim Schwartz, the team's defensive coordinator. Stefanski is the one that hired him and plenty of national media were skeptical of the hire when it was initially announced. Stefanski also hired Bubba Ventrone, which has resulted in an improvement in the team's special teams.
That's on top of all of the good hires he's made to the offensive staff. It's a critical part of the job and Stefanski has excelled there. That's despite losing two offensive coaches this past offseason including Drew Petzing, now the offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals.
Stefanski also empowers his assistants. He's not reminding anyone he drives the bus. They problem-solve as a group and it's been an effective formula, which may be the reason they've been able to attract the coaching talent they have.
Some of the complaints people have about Stefanski have almost nothing to do with football or his job. People complain he's not emotional enough on the sideline when he's plainly explained why he takes that approach. He wants to be in control of his emotions, always focused on what's next. He can celebrate in the locker room after the game, which he's made a habit of doing this game.
Stefanski's job isn't to make fans or the media feel better during the game. That's a job for a therapist. Stefanski's job is to be the coach his players need him to be. It's working. This isn't a movie where firing up players on the sideline is a critical component in winning and losing. Position coaches can handle that as he keeps his focus on managing the game and figuring out the best way to take on the next play, the next drive. Focus on what's important.
What's incredible is the number of people who think the mystery box will produce better results. The Browns picked Freddie Kitchens over Stefanski the first time he applied. Had Stefanski not applied a second time, the Browns would've ended up with Josh McDaniels, who has proven to be one of the worst head coaches in NFL history. Stefanski chose the Browns twice. And the organization is damn lucky he did because he's been their best head coach since Bill Belichick, which should be a lesson in its own right.
This is an easy decision. Lock up Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry for years to come. They make each other better as well as the team. And there's reason to believe Stefanski will only continue to improve as a coach. If the Browns are somehow able to win their first division title since 1989 with all of the setbacks they've endured, Stefanski should be the easy choice for coach of the year on top of everything else.