HC Kevin Stefanski (1.18.21)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“First, I have a very sincere level of appreciation for our players, for our coaches, for our staff and for everybody in this building for the sacrifices that everybody made in order for us to play football, practice, be in this building and stay safe. So appreciative of everybody and their hard work around here. It was not easy in terms of some of the sacrifices everybody had to make.


“Looking back on the season, as we all do when the finality of this thing and it is over, I think we definitely achieved a lot. We did some things we set out to do, but ultimately, we came up short and there is a very real sense of disappointment there among our players and coaches right now. We can definitely look back and see some things that we accomplished and be proud of that.”


On the next step for QB Baker Mayfield following Mayfield’s development this season: 

“The next step for Baker, I would characterize it as the next step for all of us – continue to get better. You saw growth from him as a player from the first game to the last. Really pleased with his progress, and I think he recognizes that he has room to grow like we all do. It is just having that mindset that he is going to constantly improve.”


On hearing multiple Browns players saying ‘we will be back’ immediately after yesterday’s game: 

“I appreciate that from the guys. It is very hard not to be game planning today. It is very hard for those guys not to be getting treatment and getting ready for the next one. You get into the rhythm of this season, and I think all of them really wanted to keep it going.”


On the reception from Browns fans when the team landed in Cleveland last night: 

“Our fans are incredible. It is something that people told me about, and I got to experience it this season in a different way. I can’t wait to experience it with 67,000 strong in FirstEnergy (Stadium) next season. An incredible fan base here in the city, in Northeast Ohio and around the world. I have heard from a bunch of them. We appreciate their support. I wish we were still playing football for them.”


On if yesterday’s loss is harder knowing the Browns had a chance to win the game: 

“The margin in this game is so razor thin, and especially in the playoffs, everything gets magnified. To go on the road and beat the defending champs, you are going to have to make a bunch of plays. Ultimately, we just came up short. That is where I am looking at myself and saying, ‘What could I have done better?’ There is a very real disappointment in coming up short.”


On what stands out from the last eight minutes of yesterday’s game: 

“That is where I thought that game was going to be. I thought it was going to be tight and we were going to have an opportunity late in the game and we were going to have to go on and drive. I just did not put the guys in position to succeed. That is where I am going to work really hard to make sure the next time that we are in that situation that I do. We came up short and did not get it done, but it was not for lack of effort. That is where I really appreciate the guys we have because you knew they were going to fight and they did, but I have to do a better job.”


On if there is one play call he would have changed on the last offensive drive: 

“All of the ones that did not work.”


On what he is most proud of this season and big picture perspective on the Browns’ future: 

“I am proud of our guys for battling all season long. I am proud of the guys for putting up with the coaches and us moving the schedule on them constantly. I am proud of how resilient they were in that regard and how resilient they were in different ball games. I am proud of how they fought yesterday. I think we established our identity this season on offense, defense and special teams. We accomplished some of our goals – ultimately, not all of our goals – but I definitely can look back and tell you that I am proud of the effort of our players, our coaches and our staff.”


On reflecting on the team’s accomplishments during his first season as head coach and expectations moving forward: 

“I think the expectations for us will always be to play to win that last game. That is where the disappointment comes when you come up short and you do not get into that second-to-last weekend of that season. Our expectations every week are going to be to go 1-0 and really put the focus on those ball games and put the focus on the work that goes into those ball games. Big picture thinking, I guess our big picture thought is that we are going to keep this thing nice and narrow view. Just in talking to our players today, I think they appreciate that. When you taste the success like we did this season, I think the guys understand that the work that they did was what allowed them to taste that success. I already am in hearing from them that they want to get back and I appreciate that, and in the same breath, just talking about how they want to get back to work.”


On what the next few weeks will entail for him and the coaching staff: 

“We will work this week. There are a bunch of things that you have to do to button up this season. Then the coaches will be off next week, and I hope they all go for the fresh. All of the players and all of the coaches, I do want them to reconnect with their families. It has been a challenging year for all of us and people that have family in other parts of the country and they are traveling and need to go reconnect. Obviously, I want everybody to stay safe while doing it.”


On if any Browns players will need surgery: 

“On the surgeries, we just did the exit physicals today so I will let AB (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry) update you later in the week on that.”


On if he expects the entire coaching to return next season:

“I do expect the coaching staff back next season. Again, really proud of this group. They worked very, very hard in some tough circumstances. People stepped up when some of us were out. Really, I loved the way our group worked together and were very much trying to solve problems in the season as they came about.”


On what specific area Mayfield improved the most this season: 

“There are a bunch of areas – he did a very good job taking care of the ball, just learning the system and some of the intricacies of this system, and I knew that it was going to get better over time with losing the offseason. I think we saw that from Baker. Once he started getting comfortable with what we were doing and once I was using more concepts that he was comfortable with, which is a big part of this, he really started playing at a high level. I am proud of the progress he made, but if I had to say one thing, I would say just taking care of that football.”


On how he and Mayfield can improve moving forward together, particularly as Mayfield does not have to learn a new offense again this year: 

“Baker and I spent some time together today, and I can tell you he is very excited not to learn a new offense.  That is a huge part of this is we can start at that baseline and we can start that foundation and build on what we have done to date.”


On if there is anything he would say to LB Mack Wilson about the hit on Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes: 

“No, I do not think. I know how it was perceived, but Mack is not a dirty player. We do not coach our guys to hurt anybody ever. We are all hoping and praying that Patrick is feeling OK, and we want him to be ready to go this week. I hope there are no hard feelings. I know Mack’s intent was definitely not to hurt him at all.”


On if he will seek to clarify anything with the NFL about Chiefs S Daniel Sorensen’s hit on WR Rashard Higgins: 

“No, I do not think so.”


On when he will meet with Berry to discuss player acquisitions this offseason: 

“We kind of meet every day on the business of players it seems. We will sit down once we get all of our reports back on the Browns personnel that the coaches will do this week. We will kind of look at the roster and see what we have and see where we want to go in the offseason. Andrew is well on his way to on that plan and he has worked tirelessly all season long with his staff to make sure they are ready to go this offseason. Looking forward to those conversations, which will continue to happen over the next few weeks.”


On what positions the Browns may focus on most the offseason, understanding he will say all positions need to be improved: 

“Every position needs to be.”


On how high the bar is in the AFC with the young talent at the QB position in the conference, given the Browns will have to beat those teams and QBs to reach their ultimate goal: 

“I would tell you that to get to that final game when you have to play in the AFC, there are tough outs everywhere you look. That is the nature of this beast. There are a bunch of great players in the AFC, and you mentioned those quarterbacks, we recognize that. Ultimately, to be the best, you have to beat the best. That is true of any sport and true of any conference, division or you name it. We will have to spend a lot of time this offseason in finding ways to make sure that we are getting better. We have to get better as a football team. I have to get better as a coach. That will be our focus moving forward.”


On key areas in building the culture of the team and establishing a foundation this season: 

“When you are talking about culture – I have said this before – I think you are just talking about people. I think we have the right people in this building. I give Andrew Berry a ton of credit for the people he was able to bring in. I think there were a ton of great people here already. We established a culture of work, and the players bought into that and they did that. That is what I told them today is that I am very grateful for the work that they put in week in and week out. We had a bunch of guys up and down the roster who just did their job, knew what their role was and worked hard. Sometimes, we had guys who were not active, then they were active the next week and they were starting the following week. I am just appreciative of all of those guys and the leadership they displayed.”


On TE David Njoku’s improvement throughout the season and performance yesterday: 

“David played well, especially late in this season as he got healthy. He dealt with a couple injuries there, but he provided us great value on the line of scrimmage and in the pass game. He did a really nice job for us.”


On Mayfield’s future as the franchise QB, given he said in an interview earlier this season that ‘those things play themselves out’: 

“Baker continued to get better all season. He did the things we asked him to do. He definitely led this football team from Day 1 until now. I would still tell you that these things tend to figure themselves out. We have a bunch of ball games to look at with him and find out ways that he can get better, but in terms of the ‘franchise quarterback’ thing, I do not even know necessarily what that means. I will let Andrew answer that one. Make sure you save that one for Andrew this week (laughter).”


On the severity of T Jedrick Wills Jr.’s injury yesterday: 

“Ultimately, not serious. It will be a couple of weeks of rehab but not surgery related.”


On his conversations with WR Odell Beckham Jr. considering Beckham was not with the team during the late season and playoff run: 

“I texted with him this morning. I know he is working really hard to get better in his rehab. I am excited to get him back here. I know it was not easy for him being away from his teammates, especially as these games got bigger and into the playoffs. I know he definitely wanted to be a part of it.”


On how S Grant Delpit and CB Greedy Williams are coming along with their rehab and if he expects them both to be ready for 2021 training camp: 

“Of course, I expect them to both be back. I am excited about both of those guys. Unfortunate injuries. They are just going to continue to rehab and work through those injuries. That is the exciting part for us is to get some of those guys back next season.”


On what player evaluations will look like this offseason with uncertainty around the combine:

“It is a good question. I do not know what that is going to look like. I would anticipate a lot of it is virtual and having some meetings with players like this, but I do not know when that is and necessarily how that will occur. We found a way last offseason to do a lot of this virtually and might have to do the same. We trust Andrew and our personnel staff to gather all of that information, watch the tape and then go from there.”


On if he ‘convinced C JC Tretter to take a different position’ about Tretter’s opinion on the offseason program and discussions with the NFLPA:

“JC, he speaks for JC, and I will speak for myself.”


On evaluating the contributions from the Browns rookie class and how they handled the unprecedented season:

“Those rookies will not forget their rookie season, I promise you that. One of them told me it was a blur this morning, and I can definitely see that. There was a lot that went on. We did a lot of this over the computer, which is never easy for those guys. I thought they battled through it. A lot of them made contributions for us early in the season and then late in the season, as well. I am excited about those guys. They are not rookies anymore, and I am counting on them moving forward.”


On the RB tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt this season and moving forward:

“Excited about those guys. They both had incredible moments for us this season, just thinking back to some of the runs and catches that they had that were highlight worthy. Excited about them moving forward, and it is our job to grow in this offense and find more things they can do. That is part of what this offseason will be about.”


On the significance of the 2021 NFL Draft for the City of Cleveland:

“It is great for our franchise and it is great for our city. I love when we get to put our city on display. Looking forward to that weekend. It is a huge weekend for a bunch of young kids who are getting drafted and finding out where they are going to be going. I am just excited that we are going to be able to host that show this year.”


On if he is looking forward to getting to know the City of Cleveland better after not being able to do so as much due to COVID-19 protocols and what this offseason will be like for him compared to previous years:

“I am definitely looking forward to getting to know the city better. We are all dealing with this pandemic in a bunch of different ways, and unfortunately, a lot of things are closed and we are not out and about and around each other as much as we would all love to be. I will just make sure that I am staying safe with my family. I am going to continue to work here and get a lot of work done this offseason. I already told the coaches, when we are in here, we have to work. We have a bunch of work to do and a bunch of things that we have to check off to make sure that we are doing everything we can to be ready for the players when they come back. Not excited for the offseason at all, but excited to finally get a chance to take a step back and get around town a little bit.


Closing statement:

“Before we go, I do want to say that I appreciate all of you guys. I know this is not easy how we have had to do all of this, but your professionalism and the way you have done your jobs, I appreciate it and I know the coaching staff appreciates it. I hope everybody stays safe.”


# # #