Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (6.5.24)

How does it feel to have that contract thing come that’s been announced? 

“You know, obviously, Tony (Grossi), you have conversations with ownership after every season and sitting down with Jimmy (Haslam) and sitting down with JW (James Wood “JW” Johnson) and obviously to entrust myself and Andrew (Berry), that their family has given us that trust to be here is a big deal. So, with Dee (Haslam) and Jimmy, Whitney (Haslam Johnson) and JW, I mean, they’ve been ultra supportive of us in a football way and in a personal way. They’ve been great to our families. So, really excited to continue to partner with Andrew and we have work to do.” 


Players who get their second contract feel they’ve accomplished quite a bit. Do you feel that as a head coach that’s an achievement? 

“No, got work to do.” 


Kevin, I mean, before you, there was a lot of turnover at your position, right? So now there’s going to be stability, the most of the organization’s had in a long time. Why do you think you and Andrew (Berry) have been able to kind of create that? 

“I think for Andrew (Berry) and I, you know, it’s a partnership where we take our job seriously. We really, you know, we understand the jobs we have in this town. We understand our fans and what they want this team to be. So, we’re just going to focus on working, every waking minute to get this thing where we want it. But I just come back to this is a – for the organization to trust Andrew and I speaks to what we’ve been able to do, but we have plenty of work to do. Fortunately for us, we’ve got some great people in this building, coaches, players, staff. So, we’ll just continue to work.”  


Does that stability, Kevin, change the trajectory of your plans or do you just go on? 

“Nothing changes for us. We walk in this building – when you’re talking about Andrew (Berry), myself, and I think every coach, every player, you walk in here and you have a job to do, and we focus on that job.” 


Kevin, together, you guys have accomplished two of the three playoff campaigns since they (The Browns) came back in 1999. Two-time coach of the year. But I’m guessing you probably feel like you guys have maybe only scratched the surface of what you hope to accomplish here? 

“Of course, I mean, we have work to do. Until you’ve got that final one checked off, you haven’t done it. And that’s for us. As you know, there’s one goal for every football team, every franchise, and that’s where we will keep our sights. Obviously, in between, you try to win some ball games and do right by the community and those type of things. But we and every – all 32 clubs, we have one thing in mind.” 


Kevin, it’s been really difficult for your predecessors and Andrew (Berry’s) predecessors to get on the same page and put a program together. Why have you and Andrew been able to work so well together? Not only work well together, but produce results from that work? 

“Yeah, obviously work every single day with Andrew. I wish he was smarter. Just wasn’t blessed with the intelligence unfortunately [joking]. But, no, honestly, we work every day. We push each other. I don’t know, to speak to the past. I don’t know that we care or anybody cares, but we just kind of focus on the work.” 



How do you think you can improve as a head coach?  

“Yeah, I think I better be getting better every day. We were just talking with one of our players yesterday about getting percentage points better every single day. It can come in a bunch of different ways, it can come in how you run your practices, how you reach your football team, how you message your football team. Obviously, we’re measured by wins and losses, but our goal as a team, players, coaches, staff, we’re trying to get better every day.” 


How are you ever satisfied? If you guys win the Super Bowl, then the next day you’d be thinking ‘we have to win another one’ so how do you ever feel satisfied? 

“Ask me then, Jeff (Schudel). I’ll let you know.” 


Kevin, how much are you looking forward to the day you see Nick Chubb in a helmet and shoulder pads again? 

“Yeah, just saw Nick (Chubb) in there. You guys are going to talk to him today I think. He’s working like crazy, you know. I know everybody wants to know, you know, when and ‘When’s he gonna do this? When’s he gonna do that?’ I know this. He is working like crazy. And I get to witness it in our building, I get to see him in our meetings, he’s a huge, huge part of our program. He’s a huge part of what we do. And I’ll let Nick speak for himself, but I get to witness him work firsthand.” 


Not to cause you any pain, but thinking back to that week two injury, when you saw him go down last year. I know you always say, ‘Next man up’. Is it easier said than done in a situation like that? Considering what he means to this team? 

“Of course, and you don’t replace those types of players or people. You know, we knew Nick (Chubb) was going to go rehab and be back, and none of us felt good about that. But it’s not like he wasn’t around last year, he was still around. So, you don’t replace players like that. Obviously, people have to pick up some slack and that type of thing. But he’s, again, this is not breaking news, but he’s a huge, huge part of what we do.” 


Kevin, you talked a lot about in lieu of the extension, and you talked a lot about just like, you know, the message not getting stale from year to year. How do you go about making sure that doesn’t happen? Just kind of keep you guys honed in as you start a new season, but it can’t be exactly the same? 

“I think it’s one of our jobs as coaches is to reach our players, and that can come in a variety of ways, and we talk even when you’re teaching and you’re learning, there are different ways to do that there are different settings for a guy to learn. So we spend a lot of time as coaches trying to find ways to reach our guys. Not everybody learns the same way, not everybody thinks exactly like you do. So, we work really, really hard to meet our guys where they are. I think part of that is getting to know each other and building trust with each other. That allows you to get to that point, but it takes some hard work.” 


Are you at all interested to see what it’s like to coach a game on Sundays without worrying about the next two or three plays in front of you? 

“As play caller, you’re saying? I don’t know.” 


Is that a new frontier? 

“Yeah, potentially. Not really. Honestly, that’s not really our focus right now. Deshaun (Watson) was calling plays in that last period. He did a pretty good job. Maybe he’ll do it this fall.” 


To go back to when you came here in 2020, 1st time head coach, did you envision this? Did you allow yourself to think, ‘Okay, four years from now, it could become a time where I sign up and I’m gonna be in Cleveland for the next x number of years’? 

“I don’t really operate that way. I don’t know that any of our coaches, players operate that way. We walk in the building and we got a job to do, we take our job seriously, we want to do the best that we can for this community, for this organization, but we really, at least I can speak for myself and I think I can speak for our team, we don’t think that way.” 


Did you ever envision that when you get towards the end of your next contract, you might have a college student going to college? 

“Mary Kay (Cabot) wants to talk about high school [laughing]. Yeah, there’s a lot of anxiety in the household about when kids are getting older. But, yeah, I mean, and that does allow me the opportunity, Mary Kay, just to talk about, for our, my family, for our players, our coaches, we feel very much a part of this community. As all of us know, that have kids, it’s crazy to see them grow in front of you, and when you do get to some mile markers, you do reflect and look back. So, certainly crazy for me to think that way, but very, very fortunate, very, very appreciative of the support we get from this community.” 


I know we asked you about having Mike Vrabel in the fold here to help you out. It’s one thing to be sitting in a room with him and have him point things out on film or whatever, but just the influence not only he’s having on you, but the staff, when he’s out there on the field in the middle of drills, engaged with not only the coaches, but the players? 

“Yeah, Vrabes (Mike Vrabel) is an incredible asset for us organizationally. He’s an incredible asset for me, I don’t know what he would be doing if he wasn’t here. He cannot sit on a couch, so we’re getting our money’s worth, and he’s in every drill, and he’s doing great in the meetings. And I just, like I’ve told him, he’s an energy multiplier. It’s fun having him around. He’s a great influence for our young coaches, he can provide some really good mentorship to our young coaches, and obviously, he provides great value to our coaching staff as well.” 


That’s the first time we saw Dorian (Thompson-Robinson) throw. Has he thrown before? 

“Yeah, he just recently got back up to throwing.” 


Is it a similar schedule to Deshaun (Watson)? Kind of every other day? 

“Different, yeah, different injury, different timeframe. But we’ll be smart there and just kind of do what the docs tell us.” 


We were able to see the little glimpse of the kickoff today. We saw it yesterday; I think he did it too. So now that you see it, a little conceptualized on the field, any new feelings? 

“No, I think for our players, speaking of new feelings, I think they get to experience the speed of the play and how much when you’re on that kickoff team, how much sooner the return is on you. That’s something that a bunch of guys have mentioned to me. Just, you know, back in the old days, you could run 30 yards and find the ball and start to get in your lane, and now it’s just like you come out of your stance and bam that play is on you. So, I think they’re getting a feel for that, I think the preseason will be a big deal and getting some of those reps, I think our practices with the (Minnesota) Vikings out here will be helpful in that regard. But, so, it’s still a work in progress for players and coaches.” 


Going back to your teaching style of coaches. I mean, we talk about the versatility of players and how important that is for you guys on the field. How important is versatility, the coaching staff and really the front office and all of that? 

“Yeah, versatility is important. And, you know, I would point to, you know, we’re just talking about coach (Mike Vrabel) Vrabes, coach (Bill) Musgrave, guys that are on our staff that can fill in in different areas and can assist. We’ve been very fortunate to have some coaching that can bounce around offense, defense, special teams, and provide value in a bunch of different ways.” 


Saw a couple linemen on either side of the ball on that kickoff. How much does it feel like a scrimmage play? 

“Yeah, at the end of the day, I think with the ball in the hand, you know, that’s what we were talking about a while back, if you remember. It may not look initially to our fans and to viewers like a football play that they’re used to, but it still is blocking, it still is tackling, it still is running. So, at the end of the day, technique is still the number one thing that we’re going to coach, the number one thing that’s important on that play. When you reduce the distance and the speed a little bit now you’re going to get potentially those bigger players out there. So, we’ll continue to rep them and be ready to evolve based on how the play is unfolding.” 


Kevin, off of Scott’s (Petrak) question, Bubba (Ventrone) talked a lot about that play becoming like this offensive type of play. Do you see that as an opportunity, being like an offensive minded coach, are they tapping into your expertise in terms of drawing things up and sort of making that? 

“There are definitely things that we’ve sat down and talked about that maybe look like an offensive play. I know this. It’s another play where offensive players can touch the ball as well. So you’re going to have two guys in the landing zone and those two guys get an opportunity to do something with the ball. So, guys, if you can believe it, often want the ball. So, there’s a play where head out there and go get the ball.” 

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