Assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone (3.9.23)


Head Coach Kevin Stefanski: “Excited to introduce Bubba Ventrone as our special teams coordinator. Bubba and I have known each other for a long time going back to his days patrolling the secondary for the Villanova Wildcats. A great football player, a great person. Has done an amazing job as a coordinator in this league for a bunch of years. A really impressive track record. It goes back to his career. He was a special teamer, and he knows the work that goes into that and how important it is to winning and losing. We are thrilled to add Bubba to the staff.”


On if he always wanted to be a coach:

“Yeah. I knew that whenever I was doing playing football I would be involved in some capacity. I felt it was great opportunity to go be the assistant in New England right away. I had an opportunity there, interviewed and was given the job so I started pretty soon after I retired in 2015.”


On if he is more demanding or more understanding of special teams players because he was one in the NFL:

“I think I have a good feel on the techniques that are played within the scheme and what is realistic and what is not. I think the players respect that.”


On K Cade York:

“It is not too often you get to actually coach a guy you rank coming out of college at the highest at that position. Last year, grading all of the specialists, the kickers and the punters, I had Cade at the highest. I am fortunate to be able to coach him this year. I think that he obviously can improve. We are just going to coach him up, and we are going to be as good as we can in the kicking phase.”


On the outlook for the Browns special teams in 2023 and what makes him excited about the unit:

“As far as the core group, it is a talented group overall. I see a lot of upside here both with the ball handlers we have currently on our roster and I would say the guys who are contributing in the big four phases – coverage units and blocking phases. I am excited to work with this group.”


On how his experience as a NFL player and core special teamer has made him a better coach:

“Like I said earlier, I feel like I have a good understanding of the techniques that are played within the scheme. I have actually done it in my career. That is all I did really. I feel like I have maybe a little bit more insight into the true intricacies of the techniques. I am big, big, big – we will drill it to death – on the fundamentals of the game: footwork, hat placement and playing with the base. I am going to emphasize that ad nauseam to our players, and ultimately, that is going to get us the best results. You can’t do anything unless you have good fundamentals and technique. That starts from Day 1.”


On why his special teams units have been successful on punt and kickoff returns despite recent rule changes in the NFL:

“This past year, we had a young group in Indianapolis. We drilled the crap out of their footwork on kickoff return in our drops. We ended up leading the league in kickoff return because we executed our techniques well, and we ran basic returns the entire season. I feel like the same parallels show up whenever you are talking through the punt return unit. Good footwork. You can handle any type of rush in protection as long as you have the fundamentals and technique to be able to allow you to see those different types of exotic looks.”


On his favorite or most vivid memories from playing in Cleveland:

“Most vivid memory – just talked about this with (pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach) Chad O’Shea as I was walking down the stairs – is beating New England in 2010. We beat them up pretty good. I know that is obviously a really hard to play against every season so it was a big win in that game. I remember I recovered a fumble off a muffed kick in that game.”


On what he applies to his role that he learned from Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick:

“I credit Bill a huge amount to everything that I have had and the success that I have had. He actually texted me this morning to congratulate me on the job. Bill really has given me my foundation for learning the kicking game. He and (former Patriots and NFL special teams coordinator) Brad Seely both have a huge influence in the things I do, how I coach the game, how I call the game and how I see the game. They just have given me a lot of insight, direction and opportunity. Bill gave me opportunities as a player and coach, as did Brad. I am going to use everything I learned from them and hopefully make this group one that we can be proud of.”


On working with a K like York who strives for perfection:

“The kicking position, I feel like the best guys, the guys that have the most successful and the best kickers – I have been around quite a bit (Browns Legend K) Phil Dawson, (former NFL K Adam) Vinatieri, (former NFL kicker Stephen) Gostkowski – and the guys who I have coached in Indianapolis – (Colts K) Chase (McLaughlin) this past year-had a good year and (Lions K Michael) Badgley – those guys have done a good job of putting misses to bed and moving on and not being so caught up in missing a kick. It is how fast you can make the correction and then move on to the next kick. I have not had a chance to sit down and actually meet with Cade, but that will be one of the things that I am going to influence for him.”


On traits of great special teams players:

“I would say the traits that you look for in special teams players is you want to have aggressive, tough, smart, disciplined players who understand how the game is being officiated and how the game needs to be played. The kicking game is completely different than any other facet of the game offense and defense. It is extremely different than the college kicking game, which is completely different overall. When these young players come into the NFL, they really have no idea what they are getting themselves into so there is a lot of teaching that goes along. That is why those meetings in the spring, then into training camp and into the season are so important, especially for those young players because they are getting taught all of these new techniques that they have never seen before and never even have experienced at all in their careers. While they are trying to still learn the offensive playbook or the defensive playbook, now they are learning a completely different facet of the game in the kicking game. Those are the things I look at.”


On if he aspires to become an NFL Head Coach in the future:

“Yeah, I have aspirations to be a head coach at some point, but honestly, my sole focus right now is getting this core unit and these specialists going. I am excited for this opportunity. I cannot wait. I am so excited to be back in Cleveland and have this opportunity. I can’t express it enough.”


Ventrone interjects as 850 ESPN analyst Tony Grossi begins to ask a question:

“Tony, I think I texted you a little while back when you came out with that No. 1-99 and you rated everybody on the best player to wear the jersey number with the Browns. I was No. 41 so thank you. I am sure there have not been a lot of great No. 41s in the organization obviously if you had me chosen there (laughter).”


On his philosophy for using fun or gimmick plays on special teams:

“Look, those types of plays come about whenever the scheme, the personnel and the opportunity arises. Depending on what the other team is doing, those opportunities come about. If you are playing a team that is disciplined and is more sound in the looks that they are giving you, then you are probably not going to have those opportunities, if they arise. Obviously, we are always looking to impact the game in some way, shape or form. If anything like that were to come about, obviously we would be willing to do something along those lines. I feel like when you are searching to get those, they are probably not going to come about. They have to really present themselves based on personnel, scheme and unsound football to a degree.”


On his involvement in discussions ahead of free agency and the draft:

“I feel like that is one of the strongest things I bring as a football coach and as a former player is my ability to evaluate talent. I feel like I have done a good job in my history both in New England and Indianapolis of not just at the highest level within the draft but undrafted players. I have been able to identify those types of players and develop them into All-Pros in Indianapolis in (Colts WR) Ashton Dulin and (49ers S) George Odum. I am excited about bringing what I feel like is a good eye for the football game here. I have already had conversations with (Executive Vice President, Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) and his staff. I am excited about that process, as well.”


On why he loves Cleveland so much:

“It is a blue-collar town. It is a blue-collar town that loves football and that is passionate about football. I was here from ‘09-’12, and we didn’t have a lot of successful seasons. We were very good on special teams back then, may I note. Even back then, we didn’t win a lot of football games, but you could just tell that this town just loves football. For me to be back around that… I am from Pittsburgh. I can’t wait to play them twice a year. I loved playing against them as a player. I can’t wait to coach against that team. I am just so excited to be back in a football town that wants to win.”


On understanding how a big play on special teams can impact a game when playing with Browns Legends WR/KR/PR Josh Cribbs and K Phil Dawson and if he may have either of those two alumni speak with the special teams unit at some point:

“Both of those guys would be great resources to bring into our room and talk at some point. I actually touched base with Phil Dawson last year – we played at San Francisco – because he had kicked out there and put our kicker back then – it was (Michael) Badgley – in touch with him just to give him some insight on how the stadium was with the wind and things like that. I think that would be a good resource for Cade honestly to reach out to Phil at some point, which he probably has already.


“Just being able to impact the game is what we want to do. First, we are going to emphasize fundamentals and technique, and then those big plays will come. We are not going to reach for them.”


On RB Jerome Ford’s performance on special teams last season and potential in 2023:

“After watching the film from last year, I think there are a lot of good things out of Jerome. He has good speed. He has good vision. He runs aggressive and downhill. He had definitely a few productive returns as they did in the latter part of the season. I am excited about (WR) Donovan Peoples-Jones as a ball handler. (WR) Jakeem Grant (Sr.), we are hoping that he is back and healthy. (WR Jaelon) Darden, who they acquired later in the season last year form Tampa, is another good ball handler and returner. I am excited about the group I have to work with.”


On if he prefers to be called Bubba or Ray:

“I am not into the Ray mode anymore. Nobody really calls me Ray. Everyone calls me Bubba. My mom calls me Raymond.”


On the Browns not having a positive impact on games through special teams as regularly as desired last season and if improvement has to happen organically or if he can help make an immediate impact:

“My message to the team is going to be, ‘Look, if we are going to be a good unit top to bottom, we need contributions from everybody. Whether you are on the field goal block unit, the field goal unit or you are a starter that plays in one or two phases, everybody has to be willing to do their part. If everybody is willing to do their part and no one is going to balk at being on the field for a kicking play, then I think you have an opportunity. You need the buy in. That is what I am hoping that I can get out of everybody. I feel like I am pretty demanding of what I want. I am going to coach everybody the same. I will coach hard. I am going to coach the crap out of techniques and fundamentals, and ultimately, that is going to give us the results we want on the field.”


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