Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (5.24.23)

Opening statement: I want to start with my very sincere condolences to Monique, to the entire Brown family, to all of the friends and family and fans of Jim Brown. As you all know, we lost somebody very important to our franchise, to our league, to our society. The impact that he had was immeasurable. I’m sure there’s people that knew Jim as a player, as a friend, much better than I did. So I can’t add a ton to that. But my brief interactions for me are, I’ll never forget just talking to him the first day I got hired. I got on the phone with him, which was a thrill. Was able to meet Jim over the years, a couple of times, and just a mountain of a man in many ways, and we lost a very big part of our family. There will be time, as you know, over the next few days, weeks, months, years to memorialize Jim. And we’ll let you know what the plans are as we keep moving forward. But obviously, I just want Monique and her family to know that we’re thinking about them. And that’s something that I know our players and coaches and staff here are constantly thinking about. With today, OTA No. 2, great to get back out here with everybody and moving around and competing against each other. I thought the energy was there. Really like how the guys are working every single day, taking the meeting room to the grass. So a really good second day, and then we’ll get our third day in tomorrow, before we break this first group of OTAs, and then we’ll start back up next Tuesday.


Kevin, what’s your thought on the new kickoff rule and the impact, the short-term and long-term impact, it could have?

I think it remains to be seen. I think it’s a good question. I don’t know. I think we need to see how that all goes. I’m all for player safety and anything that helps in player safety. We get asked what we think about the rules, but the rules are the rules. We’ll adhere to them, whatever they are. But it’s definitely, at this point in the game, where we are in May, we got to look at it and see what our plan is now that that is a rule.


Does the third quarterback rule lead you to favor keeping a third quarterback? 

Good question. I think that’s definitely something that we’re talking about. We have time before we make that decision, but I do think that will potentially adjust some people’s thinking.


Thoughts on seeing Za’Darius out there today?

Za’Darius has been awesome, just having him in the building. He’s a ball of energy. He’s great around our players, our young players. He practices hard. He does a great job out here. When he’s in the building, in the weight room and the meeting rooms, on the field, he brings some juice to what we’re doing.


How do you think he can help Myles and kind of vice versa?

I think all good players want to play with other good players, and I think it brings out the best in each other. I think competition, obviously, breeds that. But also when you’re pushing. When you have good players, particularly on either side of the formation, I should say, that are pushing each other, I think it has the ability to bring out the best in you.


What does Juan Thornhill bring to this team that you can’t just measure in statistics from Kansas City? 

He brings good experience in playing some big football games. Playing and performing and playing at a high level in big games. So there’s great experience there. I think he’s very cerebral. At that position and what coach Schwartz is asking our guys to do, I think is important, and I think he’s done a nice job.


Kevin, how would you describe your first overall impression of this defense out on the field? 

I think we’re so early into our installation that we’re still scratching the surface. I mean, there’s many more meetings and many more things that we’ll get to, but I think the energy is there. I really love watching the coaches coach. I think they’re all doing a great job working with young players to old players. Like you mentioned, it’s new for a bunch of people. I think Rodney McLeod could probably coach it up based on his experience, but for a lot of these guys, everything’s new. So when you run a coverage for the first time, you may make a mistake early, and that’s okay. So we’re just trying to clean up any mistakes, but I think, all told, I think they’re doing a really nice job.”


What do you remember most about that first conversation with Jim Brown, and what were your personal takeaways from those interactions with him? 

My dad grew up  in Philadelphia, but was a huge Jim Brown fan, and that’s not uncommon for a lot of people growing up at that age. I don’t care where you were growing up. You became a Browns fan. You became a Jim Brown fan early on in your life. So for my dad, his two–he loved Wilt Chamberlain, he loved Jim Brown. So, for me, after I hung up the phone with Jim, I very quickly called my dad and he couldn’t believe it. Just having him in town, I think it was a couple of years ago, just spending some time with him. Just unbelievable what he’s been through in his life, and we’ve educated our players on that. Last year, we took them down to the Hall of Fame and we watched A Football Life: Jim Brown. It’s my job to continue to educate our guys on what he’s meant to our franchise, to our league. You stand on the shoulders of giants, and that’s Jim Brown.


Is it annoying that Garrett is not here?

I’m not going to characterize it. I think it’s a voluntary program and the guys that are here, we coach them up. That’s how we approach it.


Kevin, if you’re a return guy and that is a big part of your game and that’s how you make a roster, are you worried that they are now kind of driving you out of the game? 

I think we have to see how the rule plays out. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty there. I think there are different–I think you might get two different reasons or two different answers as to what impact that rule will have, whether it increases returns or decreases returns. So I really think it remains to be seen. The kicking game is very important to us. We’re not going to take the foot out of football, so we always have got to make sure that’s a staple of what we do. Making sure we’re great in all of our coverage and return phases.


What do you remember about Za’Darius when you were coaching against him?

We’ve all gone against him, really, on our offensive staff. Everybody’s got stories of going against him. He’s a game wrecker. He’s really difficult to defend in the run and the pass. He gives you an honest day’s work. He’s got heavy hands. He plays hard. He’s even made a few plays just in these drills, in these jog-throughs, where you just watch his movement skills. He’s big and thick and can move, so he’s done a really nice job.


Will the new kickoff rule result in more squib kicks?

It kind of goes back to what I said earlier, I don’t know. I know that’s definitely something that has been talked about, but I think every team–being that the rule changed this late–I think everybody needs to work through, ultimately, what their plan is. But that is definitely a potential outcome of that.


Is Bubba Ventrone the first coordinator you’ve worked with to actually run the reps as they’re being done? 

Bubba’s in great shape. I get to see Bubba work out. He probably could still play. So it’s the old do as I say, not as I do. Well, he can actually do it. We’ll even watch some tape of Bubba in his meetings. He’ll pull up some tape with the long locks flowing out of that helmet. Kind of going back to the earlier question about our defense, we’re being very diligent about how we build this thing. And Bubba and coach Bravo, they’ve done a nice job of really laying the foundation of what we’re doing.


Kevin, D’Qwell Jackson is here. Can you tell us in what capacity and what it’s like to have him around?

Yeah, D’Qwell has been great. I’ve spent a little bit of time with D’Qwell over the years. Got to spend some more time with him at the combine. I think the world of him, this building thinks the world of him. So he’s visiting with us this week. Just having him meet with different people and spend some time with different people and impart some of that knowledge that he’s had over that career. I think that’s totally invaluable for our young players. What ultimately it means for his future, I think that also remains to be seen, but it’s a visit and let him get to know different areas of our building.


Is there a story why Schwartz is wearing numbers? 

There is. There’s always a story. You know, that’s something that coach has done over his career, and I’ll let him explain it more in more detail when you guys talk to coach next week. But really what he’s doing is he’s telling the players about another player that’s doing it the right way, a guy that’s doing it how we want it done, that’s embodying what we do out on the practice field and in the meeting room. So coach Schwartz is a fan of Jordan (51) today. You’ll see, he’s a fan of a bunch of guys over the course of these practices, but Jordan’s a guy that continues to always do what he’s supposed to do. So coach has given him some love.


For guys like Anthony Walker who aren’t working, but they’re working out, how important is it that they’re in the mix, too?

That’s a good point. I think for those guys, when you’re not practicing for whatever the reason, you can still have a huge impact both for yourself and for your teammates. For example, the quarterbacks that aren’t getting the rep, if you watch them behind, they’re getting the mental rep of that place. They may go through the footwork, so you can stay engaged even when you’re not getting the rep. And then for a guy that’s maybe injured, to be able to talk to a young player who’s–as you can imagine, their heads are swimming at times right now–so to put your arm around a young receiver and tell them about alignments, tell them about their assignment, their technique, that type of thing. When it comes from an Amari or Sione, I think it means a little bit more.


Kevin what have you seen from Deshaun developing that chemistry at this stage of the offseason with the new pass catchers you guys have brought in? 

I think that’s why we are here. That’s why we have this offseason program. Marquise Goodwin and Deshaun really throwing together for the first time. As you add new players, and adding Elijah to the mix, you want as a quarterback, all these reps–you take mental notes and you’re thinking about how a player came out of this route, how he came out of that route. Every single rep, whether it’s individual period or it’s in a team period or it’s in a seven on seven, you’re constantly adding that to the checklist, if you will, so that you get to understand your players, because that’s important. We may run a six-step route, and the six steps that Player A takes are a little bit longer than the six steps that Player B takes. So you’re taking that into account as you throw that throughout the spring.


How would you compare where Deshaun is at now from last year? 

I don’t think it’s fair to compare. I would just tell you he’s done a really nice job throughout this entire offseason of being diligent about understanding playbook, understanding his teammates every single day. Yesterday was a really good day. Today was a really good day. There are always going to be things that you want to get back and do a little bit differently. That’s no different than every player at every position, but he’s right where he needs to be.


Kevin, you saw the rookies a couple of weeks ago on the field in minicamp. When they come back and you see them on the field like this week, do you sort of expect a couple of steps back from them that they have to kind of make up? 

“Yeah, I think it’s a long road for a rookie. As you know, you put in a lot of extra work with your coaches. I mean, those guys meet extra with the coaches every single day. So it’s not something that can just come from snapping your finger. You got to work at it. I think part of it is making mistakes, which are going to happen, and that’s okay. It’s about making those mistakes and then making those corrections. So I think we’re at the point there with the rookies where we’re just getting into these practices. You’re going full speed, you’re going to make some full speed mistakes, and that’s okay. So now it’s about getting back in those meeting rooms and making corrections.


Kevin, when there is a new rule that you don’t have a lot of data on, what’s the process in kind of trying to figure that rule out?

Probably, yeah. I mean, go back to the three-point shot. I don’t know if anybody thought they’d be shooting this many. I don’t know that this rule will have a huge impact. I think that, again, is something that all of us need to work through. It’s something that Bubba and I have started to talk about and what it might mean for other teams, what it might mean for us. So we’ll try to use the next weeks, and over break before we get back together, to solidify what we want to do, what everybody else wants to do. We don’t know. And then it might be you navigate throughout the season and you adjust your thought process throughout the season, based on how it’s going. But I don’t know that anybody knows exactly how that rule–I don’t know that anybody knows the outcome of that rule just yet.