Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (2.28.24)

What kind of offensive coordinator are the (New England) Patriots getting?

“A great one. I’ll start with the person. You’re not going to find a better person in this profession. AVP (Alex Van Pelt) is a great friend of mine. I’m excited for him in that opportunity. Former player, has played in a bunch of different systems, coached in different systems. He’s collaborative, so I think the Patriots got a great one.”


How much does that inform his coaching style? The fact that he was a quarterback.

“Yeah, I think it’s really important. He sat in that view from that quarterback position when you’re playing is pretty unique, and I think he sees it through the eyes of those players and I think he constructs the system through the eyes of those guys, which is so important.”


Kevin, you’ve really overhauled the offensive coaching staff this year. What was sort of the thought process behind it at first and how important is it to kind of maybe just add some fresh ideas, fresh perspectives?

“As you know, Chris (Easterling), year to year, you’re constantly looking at different things and what you can do better. There were some unique instances this year that came up. So obviously there’s a bunch of new people in our room, which I view as a positive. And the conversations that we’ve had already have been great. I think Ken’s (Dorsey) doing a great job with the new coaches, but to have Duce (Staley) in there, to have Tommy Rees, Andy Dickerson, Roy (Istvan), these are guys that come from different perspectives. Obviously different teams, different schemes. So we’re still in the infancy of putting it back together. We’re actually meeting here. Ken has the guys meeting while they’re here at the combine. He’s working them hard, but we’re still working through all of that. But it’s been great conversation.”


What did you like about what Ken did in Buffalo that made you want to bring him on here?

“Yeah, Ken’s a guy – I’ve kind of known Ken for a while. We’ve stayed in touch. Similar to what we’re talking about earlier and having that background as a quarterback. I think you can’t discount that, how important that is. And I think in Buffalo, as we saw, as we competed against them and as you study them, very very explosive in their offense, did a variety of things through the run and the pass that are exciting.”


What do you think about the job Shane Steichen did and what he can do in Indianapolis?

“Shane’s outstanding. Again, a guy that I’ve known for a long time. I think Shane has done a great job of implementing an offense that really suits his players, the skill sets of his players. I can speak from experience with us playing against him this year. They’re very difficult to defend. They put you in conflict quite a bit through their run and pass game.”


We know the circumstance with (Bill) Callahan. With the other offensive coaches, was it your intent to shake things up this year going into your fifth year? 

“I wouldn’t categorize it as that, Tony (Grossi). I’ll just tell you every year you’re looking at different ways that you can try to get a little bit better, and that’s what it was.”


Kevin, motion has taken over the NFL. ESPN’s data has you guys as 31st in motion last year. Is that purposeful? Do you see a scheme advantage or is it you had five quarterbacks last year?

“Yeah, I hesitate to look in too much to last year in that regard. I think motion, speaking of conflict, I think it can make life really hard on the defense. I speak from experience. When that picture is changing pre-play, it can make it really a challenge. You can put your receivers in advantageous positions via motion. I think what Coach (Mike) McDaniel did in Miami was really, those were new things that are now you’re going to see that throughout the league, but there’s certainly elements to it. I think what we talk about a lot is you want to shift in motion with a purpose. You don’t want to do it just to do it. But if there are opportunities to create advantageous looks for you certainly want to do it.”


Kevin, first of all, thank you for the time. How tough is it to part ways with Bill Callahan and what should Titans fans expect?

“Yeah, Coach Callahan is a person that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. Forget on the field. I’ll talk about on the field in a second, but just off the field. Coach and I spent a lot of time together. I know what he’s about. I know how he coaches. I know how he treats people. So, he was a huge influence on me as a person and as a coach. As a coach, he’s a great player. His history with different players and his reputation really speaks for itself. But very hard worker. I promise you those offensive linemen down there in Tennessee will be working very hard.”


When we watched Buffalo, when Dorsey was the play caller, it was very pass heavy. There’s a tendency with Cleveland that Cleveland likes to run the ball, especially when you have a Nick Chubb. How do you kind of adjust the offense so that it does include the run?

“Yeah, I think Ken sees it exactly how I see it. You want to play through the strengths of your players. I don’t think either of us or anyone on our offensive staff believes that you have to do one thing to win in the NFL, because that’s not the reality of life in the NFL. You have to be multifaceted. You have to be able to pivot in a game. You have to be versatile in what you’re doing. So, we’ll do what we feel is best for our players in any specific given game, because that changes game to game as well.”


Not having any first-round picks, but having to develop that first-round talent you guys want to. How have you guys, as a coaching staff and training staff kind of rallied around that and maybe changed even some philosophies around how you develop?

“Yeah, it’s a good point, Cam (Justice). I think you’re always trying to be intentional about your development of your players. And if you can draft a third-round pick or a fifth-round pick and turn them into a first-round talent, quote-unquote, you’re winning on the margin. So, development of players is really a big part of our operation. I think Andrew (Berry) has constructed it as such. I think what we do with all of our departments touching all of our players in different resource departments. Whether it’s nutrition or strength and conditioning, coaching, obviously playing a role in that. But once we get our players, it’s our job to develop them, to get them the best versions of themselves. And I think you’ve seen with our rookie class, we’re willing to really use all our resources that we have.”


I know we talked about the trip to The Greenbrier a bunch last year, but why the decision to do it again? 

“Yeah, I think going down there, Scott (Petrak), first time for us to go through that experience, and really it was coming out of that, we all felt really strong that it was a positive experience. Now, is it going to manifest itself in wins and those type of things? It’s so hard to know coming out of those. But the staff down there was outstanding. Our staff put on a great operation, if you will. We got a lot of work done, so I thought it’s important to do it again.”


It seemed like just the bonding, too. Like players brought that up organically. Like when we’d asked them about the team chemistry, how much was that a factor in the decision?

“It’s all a factor. I think that was part of going down there in the first place was getting our guys under one roof. As you know, really bad cell phone service down there, which is a good thing. So just to see our guys spending time together outside of football, I just think all that adds up.”


Kevin, with Deshaun (Watson) starting to throw, maybe over the next couple of weeks, how’s it coming along and how important is it for you to have him in the offseason program for you and Ken to kind of get working with him?

“Yeah, he’s coming along. I know he’s going to start throwing here shortly. He’s hitting all of his milestones. Ken and I are going to go out and see him next week and spend some time. Not talk football, just catch up. Won’t see him throw, but just want to check in on him. But I text him almost every day, so he’s in a good place.”


You’ll go to UCLA or out?

“We’ll go out to LA.”


 It’s been six weeks since the Wild Card. Is there a better answer than it just wasn’t our day defensively?

“It’s a good question, Tony. It’s something that we’re spending time on. Obviously that was not our best effort as a team, so we’re looking at that game as you can imagine, we’re looking at everything right now, the entire season, but that’s certainly not the way we wanted it to end. So you really do have to look at all those things and say what could we have done differently certainly from a coaching perspective that we can help our players move forward. So that’s something that Jim and I are working on.”


What did you see out of Scott (Peters)?

“Yeah, Scott did a great job. We were talking about coach Callahan earlier. Scott’s played in this league, he’s a technician through and through. I think he’s somebody that works really hard. I think the players are going to understand, especially in their individual drills, to watch Scott work, watch him instruct in some of those techniques. He’s really done a great job.”


Why was Alex (Van Pelt) not retained?

“Yeah, kind of talked a little bit earlier about AVP (Alex Van Pelt), somebody I love as a person, as a coach. Just we make decisions that are tough sometimes in this league, but it doesn’t change how I feel about him.”


Kevin, you may not have a chance to look at it yet, but the NFLPA report cards came out, and some of the grades were concerning. They have you as 29th in how you use their time and 23rd in willingness to listen. As you guys look at those report cards, what do you guys do with that information?

“I think every year you have to be open to everything information wise to get better. I know in there, talking about the weight room was one thing. I’m happy to tell you guys, we’re building a new weight room, so we know that that’s an area that we want to get better. I take input from our players. I feel really strongly about our leaders, our leadership committee. My office downstairs, the door is always open, even if it’s closed, it’s open. So I welcome input and that will never change.”


Had you heard any of those complaints or those issues last year?

“No. But again, I don’t know all the details of the report card, but I know that I feel really comfortable that guys can come to me with any of their concerns.”


Kevin, as you’re here this week meeting with prospects and you’re talking with them, how much is body language something that you evaluate in some of those meetings or even just watching tape of them or going to their games?

“Yeah, it’s interesting. We have a BBL (bad body language) fine in the quarterback room. A bad body language fine, so we coach it. We never want to see a player on the field going like this, there’s a palms up fine. So certainly how you carry yourself specifically at that quarterback position is important. And I think, as you know, and there’s experts at this more so than I, but everything you’re doing, you’re saying something even when you’re not saying it verbally. So we certainly coach our players up on it, and then with these type of environments it’s hard. The speed dating of this all is strange for these guys as they come in and you have 20 minutes to make an impression. So we try to give them grace in that regard and try to just really find out about them. So try to put them at ease as much as you can.”


Who’s your least fined BBL (bad body language) player?

“That’s a good question. Yeah, that’s a great question. The answer is probably Nick Chubb. He’s usually the answer to most of those questions.”


How about the most?

“Can’t say.”


Is Nick still rehabbing in the building? Do you see him?

“Yeah, he’s doing great.”


Is your philosophy in running back can’t have enough of them no matter who’s in there?

“Yeah. I mean at that position, it’s been interesting, as we all know over the years, how the game has changed or that position has changed. I think back to this year, some of  the guys that we had gave us a variety of different skill sets. I think you have to be able to catch the ball in this day and age, and we certainly have guys that can catch the ball and then this is a tough business. You have to have guys that can go get those hard yards as well. But I know this class and watching some of the guys that are coming out, there’s a variety of guys, variety of skill sets.”


Kevin, yesterday Andrew (Berry) said in relation to the priority of a backup quarterback. Do you wait to see who is available after knowing it was a need after last year?

“I don’t want to speak for Andrew. I think he knows the value of the position, but I think he also knows the marketplace, and he can’t be the impulsive spender that you and I might be, but I think he understands markets really well.”


What was that conversation like with Bill when he’s coming to you and talks to you about it (leaving) and how did that whole operation go?

“Again, that’s a very unique situation. Not many father-son coaching combinations in this regard where the son’s the head coach. So we always knew with Brian. I know Brian, I know how good Brian is, always knew that was a possibility, that he may get a job. So it’s not that that’s a big surprise that Bill would want to go coach with Brian. But I think ultimately this is ownership, Andrew, myself, making a decision that we felt like was the right thing to do.”


How many shrimp cocktails does Brian owe you for that one?

“None with horseradish.”


It seems like the personnel profession has a reputation for being cold and calculated, everyone can get cut or traded or fired at any time. The way you guys handled that situation and the way you guys have talked about Chubb suggests you’re more into the human side. Why is that important to you guys?

“Yeah, I mean, listen, we all know this is a business. It’s a game, it’s a kids game. It’s also a business. And we understand that. It doesn’t mean that you don’t treat people the right way and treat them with empathy, treat them how they deserve to be treated. I think there’s a variety of situations that arise just in my time, I can think of things that come up that there’s no blueprint for it. There’s no handbook on how to deal with this, but I think ultimately if you deal with these people with respect, I think ultimately that’s the right thing to do.”


Who might call the plays on offense this year?

“I think where we are right now, Tony, in looking at the offense, putting it back together, I don’t know if that decision is important right this minute, so I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve made a decision.”


Kevin, Ken has worked under two defensive head coaches. You came from working under a defensive head coach. Now he’s getting to work under an offensive head coach. How much of a difference is that?

“Yeah, it’s a big difference, and I can’t speak to Ken’s experience. I would just tell you the way Ken and I see the game, the way we work together, he’s really going to help me a ton, I’m going to help Ken. I mean, it’s a relationship where we really are helping each other put this offense together, and I think that’s just maybe more unique. That’s not a situation that he’s been in before.”


But when you’re under a defensive coach can you explain what that dynamic is?

“Yeah, it’s interesting. Again, I think with the head coach, I make decisions that are for the entire team. I don’t make it for the offense, for the defense, for the special teams, and I think coordinators the nice part, I think, and I think about me and Jim for instance we share a vision of our defense and I trust Jim to implement that vision.”


What new and different sort of philosophy or vibe do you think Ken will bring to the table for Deshaun?

“That’s a good question, Mary Kay. I think we’re working through all of that. I think that’ll be really more evident over time. I would tell you just from my experience in the offensive staff room over the last few weeks, again, to have different ideas, not just from Ken, but from all of our new coaches and our current coaches. I think these are the really fun times for us as we put things back together. As silly as it may sound, just changing maybe terminology or changing aiming points or changing a technique, those are all things that we’re looking at and trying to figure out what’s the best way to move forward. Less so of like, ‘here’s how we’ve always done it, what’s the best way to move forward?'”


And you’ll get Deshaun’s input when you guys are together with him next week on some of that stuff?

“For sure. Can’t talk football, but we’ll talk big picture.”


How beneficial are joint practices?

“Yeah, I don’t know that we’re officially official yet. I’ll wait for the other side to confirm, but I feel good about it. I think this will be the fourth year we’ve done it, I think it’s invaluable. And what I always look for is, I look for a head coach that I know and trust. I look for a different scheme that we can go against competitively and then organizationally you want there to be some tie-in where you feel like you can work together. So I think we have that and hopefully we’ll be able to announce it official soon.”


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