Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (12.28.23)

Opening statement:

“Okay. Pretty special night for this organization. Pretty special night for the fans out there. They were ready to roll from the jump. They were huge tonight. Huge all season long. So, appreciate that from our crowd with us through it all. And then organizationally it’s a big deal when you can clinch and earn that second season. Obviously, we got a bunch of work to do and we’ll focus on that. But for the moment, proud of this football team, proud of those guys for battling through a bunch of adversity both tonight and this season. But we’ll finish strong next week and then we’ll see what comes. And with that, I’ll take any questions.”


Kevin, what did it mean to you to clinch the postseason in front of these fans? 

“Yeah, I mean, last time we did it, there weren’t that many [fans] out there. Yeah, this is a special city. They love their Brownies, as I’m reminded often. So, to be able for them to savor in this and enjoy this, I think it’s a big deal.”


Kevin, what made that first half work so smoothly for you? 

“Good players making plays. I mean, they did a great job. There were big plays. I can think of some of Dave’s (Njoku) plays in there and Jerome (Ford) obviously, was incredible on that big one at the end. But Elijah (Moore), a bunch of guys making plays. Ronnie Hickman making plays – sorry, need to mention Ronnie.”


What about Joe Flacco, four in a row with 300 yards and just lighting it up?

“Yeah, I think you guys know, just having watched Joe now and we as coaches are getting to know Joe and that type of thing, but he battles like crazy. I think he’s doing a nice job of playing within himself and playing within the scheme and all those type of things, but he’s also making plays. And there were a bunch of plays that he made tonight that were key.”


Going back to Ronnie for a second, how critical was that interception? Especially considering the start the defense had before that. 

“Yeah, that was incredible. The ball finds Ronnie Hickman. It’s incredible. Out at practice, walkthrough, somehow the ball finds its way into his lap and he does a great job. You know, scoring – it was a great play by a young man and he’s doing a nice job. We’re going to continue to need these guys to step up.”


You mentioned all the adversity and we don’t have to go through all of that. But when did you know this team was going to make the playoffs? 

“You always…going into every season you feel like you have a good pulse of your team. It’s a credit to Andrew (Berry) and his crew. We have talented football players in this team. And we’ve had to – obviously, our depth has been tested in different areas throughout the season, but I think it’s a really strong roster. I think we have an unbelievable coaching staff that I get to work with every single day. So felt good about this team. Now, you don’t know in this NFL, my God, there are things that happen you can’t predict. Not even you, Tony (Grossi). So, for us to just stay the course throughout the season, I’m proud of this team.”


Kevin, what do you think – you’ve been around Joe for whatever, a month now. What do you think it means to him to be leading this ride, just given all the circumstances?

“Joe is, I think, very excited to have his family here watching him. It’s a special moment for them. Again, it’s a great story. I know you guys love this story, but I’m just happy for Joe. I’m happy for him having this success, being a part of a football team. He’s got something left in the tank.”


You mention how weird it was the first time you guys clinched in this stadium. How would you say your relationship with this fan base has evolved over your time? 

“Yeah, I show up to work, do my job. They let you know when you’re doing a good job. They let you know when you’re not doing a good job. But I know this, they’ve been there every step of the way and just measure it by how they are at home games. And we’ve been pretty good at home. And I think that’s in no small part to our fans. They’ve been unbelievable. Then we go on the road and they follow us on the road. So, they’re extremely supportive. We feed off of their energy and it was electric tonight. That was an electric building from the jump.”


Kevin, when (Deshaun) Watson went down and had surgery, did you think this was possible?

“You know, it’s the greatest team sport there is, Tony. You hate to lose great players, and we lost some great players along the way. But go ask those guys, they tell you it’s a team sport. I know this. Those guys that weren’t with us tonight, they were with us tonight on the field, and they got our back and we got theirs.”


Can you just explain the decision to go for it on fourth down and two rather than take the field goal? 

“Did Tony put you up to that question [joking]? Yeah, just felt – number one, felt good about the play call. Felt like we had a good play. Sometimes you get down there, you don’t love your play, felt good about the call and then felt good about putting our defense out there if we were short. If we didn’t gain, I felt good about putting our defense in that situation. Felt like we’d get the ball back at midfield at worst.”


So it wasn’t because he (Riley Patterson) missed that PAT? 

“No, it was not.”


Coach, you started this journey for this season, you started at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.  I think not enough credit is given to you all because it seems like the team bonding started there and it carries on. In your mind what in Greenbrier happened that you were able to take that to where we are right now as far as making the playoffs? 

“Yeah, I give credit to the players. They used every opportunity that we’ve had over the course of the season and like you mentioned, at the Greenbrier, to get to know their teammates and be around their teammates. It’s a strong bond in that locker room and it’s something we talk about. It’s something that I talked about last night about this team, how close they are and they got each other’s back. And I think that gives you a chance when you have that. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect, doesn’t mean that we’re going to play great every single game, but when you fight like crazy for the guy next to you, you got a chance.”


Kevin, you weren’t the head coach back in 2020 for the first round of the playoffs. Are there any nerves going into the first round this year? 


Kevin, kind of a scary moment with Elijah. Is there any kind of an update with him? 

“No update. He obviously has a concussion, but we’ll update you guys.”


And Amari (Cooper), did he want to go?

“Tried to. Yeah, just couldn’t do it. Tried.”


What was your message to the guys? 

“Yeah, I mean, just proud of the effort, obviously. But we got work to do.”


How encouraging to get the running game on after struggling a few weeks?

“Yeah, that was important. Really proud of those guys. Just got it going, it was good.”

I was just watching Joe out there. We had four little Flacco 15 jerseys follow them out to the field and it was kind of a cool thing. Can you kind of relate to that whole situation? 

“Yeah, got my boys in here. It’s special being around Joe, who’s a family man. He always Facetimes with his kids from the office. It’s important to him. So that’s part of this story that makes it so special.”


What does the Stefanski family think of the passion the city shows you good at? 

“You can ask them. After this, you can ask.”



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