Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (7.23.23)

When we talked to Deshaun (Watson), he said something like the offensive structure and foundation are the same, but everything else is new. How would you describe kind of the changes from last year’s issue? 

“It’s so hard to describe because every scheme – we talked about this a little bit yesterday – every scheme, you better be evolving every single year. So structure-wise, how we call things remains the same in some areas and then you want to change some verbiage, or you want to shorten some verbiage. So we’re trying to always challenge the guys and give them some newness every year, sometimes every week so that they’re prepared for how game plans adjust week to week. But to say in total how different it will look, I think all those remain to be seen and really, that’s what we’re working through throughout training camp.”


With Anthony (Walker) and Sione (Takitaki) obviously, they weren’t put on PUP or anything like that. Do you guys have sort of a plan of how you want to kind of ramp them up? 

“Yeah and they’re both different. They’re both coming off different injuries. So per doctors’ and per trainers’ recommendations, we’ll bring them both along in a little bit different way. But for now, they’ll be off this side getting some work and then in these walk-throughs and those types of things are great for them to get some live, quote-unquote, reps. We’ll see how it goes. And that’s the nice part of having a little bit longer training camp. Give them some time to get ready.”

When you talk about the offense evolving, how much input does Deshaun have and what does that process look like? 

“Oh, yeah, quite a bit. I think, again, that’s not anything new to what we do. I’m sure every team does it, but when the quarterback likes to play, I like to play. We’ve talked about this before, there’s so much football and there’s so much scheme. You can get on the board and draw a thousand plays and they’re all good, but when the quarterback’s comfortable with the play, he typically makes it work. So that’s for us as we design everything, it’s always making sure that it fits Deshaun’s eye. Maybe it’s a concept that he’s done over the years. Maybe it’s a concept that we both saw and he really likes. We’re going to try it out. That’s really what the spring is for. That’s what, as we get going here into our installs, seeing what fits him, seeing what fits our entire offense, what fits Nick (Chubb), what fits the line, what fits our pass catchers. That’s kind of the work that we’re doing right now. But I don’t know that you’re worth your salt if you’re not taking the quarterback’s input and what you’re putting together.”


Ultimately, do you put a limit on the volume of your playbook? And is it bigger now with Deshaun here all year? 

“I don’t know that it’s bigger. Volume is something we talk about all the time, Tony, because you don’t want to do too much either because then it becomes diluted. We think long and hard about giving our guys a system that makes sense, that’s difficult for the defense to defend, but you try to be too much and then you’re not really good at anything. I think you got to think long and hard, and all conversations that we’ve had throughout this spring, what you want to hang your hat on, what do you want to be good at, what do you want to have that complements what you do? But volume is a big conversation that we have all the time because the other part of that is, you want to put in a system on offense, defense, and special teams that your guys can play fast. And all of a sudden when you have too much volume, that tends to slow people down. ”


Speaking of Nick, the evolution of this offense, in what ways can that help him be more productive?

“I think Nick’s a huge part of our offense, obviously. Handing it to him, throwing it to him – he’s been adept at both. Where we go as you evolve, and maybe different run types come in for him. I think we have very good empirical data on what he’s good at and it’s tried and true. That part of what we are will always be with Nick in mind. But Nick himself, I don’t know if there are limits to him as a player. I think he’s a schematic fit really in anything you do.”


So the more you spread the field, do you think that could create more opportunities for him? 

“Potentially, yeah. He’s been successful in a bunch of different areas. I think Nick’s a good runner when you spread it out. Nick’s a good runner when you try to block everybody. I think he fits it all.”


Is there any data about him (Nick Chubb) running out of the shotgun versus in the center?

“Yeah, I think he’s good at it all. All the data shows he’s good from the gun, good from the pistol, good from the dot – as we say when the quarterback’s under center. So we talk a lot about versatility and offense. It’s nice to have a runner that really you can run anything with Nick. There are some runners that really prefer downhill gap scheme runs and maybe aren’t great from the gun. There are some runners that are better from the gun and better on perimeter-type schemes. Nick’s good at it all.”

Historically, in the NFL, running out of the shotgun has been less productive, has it evolved to the point where it is? 

“It’s interesting when you talk about running from the shotgun. Now, you do have the opportunity to have RPOs when you’re in the shotgun, more so than from under center. You’d have to really look at the run plays from the gun and also know that some of those pass plays were originally run. So I think they all work together.”


So the difference is having a quarterback who can do the RPO?

“Just in general, you’re saying, or for us?”


With the running game out of the shotgun? Do you want to do it with a dropback quarterback? 

“Well, not necessarily. I mean, you look at what Philly did with Nick Foles and Chip Kelly’s system. So I think, again, they all work. It all draws up on the board. It’s really you – and we – have to make a decision on what fits our guys the best.”


When you talked about Nick, when you were laying out, ‘okay, we’re going to do this,’ I’m assuming he’s pretty receptive to it, but I think maybe not every back is exactly that way?

“That’s true. Nick’s a different breed and he’s all about the team. You mentioned receptive, he’s receptive to really everything we ask him to do. And that’s not just from a game perspective, but from out here on the field, in the meeting rooms and in the weight room. He’s an unbelievable leader because he leads from out in front. I know he doesn’t outwardly, a lot of people say, ‘wow, Nick’s so quiet.’ I think he is at times, but when he’s around his teammates, he’s not quiet. He can be vocal, but I think he leads by doing the right thing all the time. That’s one of the things we joke about as coaches. You never have to worry about Nick really. You tell him to do anything, he’s going to do it exactly how it was supposed to be done.”


When you see those videos of him squatting and that bar is bending like it is, what are you thinking?

“I’m thinking that dude’s strong. I hope he’s safe. I hope the spotters are safe. But Nick works his butt off. He’s down there at his high school. He’s got an amazing relationship at his high school and in his hometown. I think about how lucky those young kids are to be around a guy like Nick and see it done at such a high level.”


Kevin, you’ve never had a question about Deshaun’s commitment and his dedication to his craft. You said he loved to talk ball. Have you seen it at another level in year two?

“I wouldn’t necessarily say another level, but I think about when I was walking through the locker room up in Berea a couple of days ago and quarterbacks had not even reported yet and he’s sitting in his locker looking at plays and I’m like, ‘what are you doing here, man?’ He’s a junkie and he’s a gym rat. You got to shoe him out of the facility. And he’s always been that way, and that’s what I think his teammates see from him. I think that’s what his teammates love about him, is that they know how committed he is to the team.”


Will he be sliding protections and things like that when he gets more autonomy at the line and different things, will he slide protection? 

“Oh, for sure.”


What kinds of things will he be taking upon his plate in this position?

“That’s part of that job. As a quarterback, you got the best view of anybody when it comes to protection. We’re very fortunate to have Ethan (Pocic) and Nick Harris, who are very intelligent. We had, obviously, JC (Tretter) prior, so we’ve had really smart centers that can work together in conjunction with the quarterback. The quarterback has all that ability to move protections. We spend a lot of time on that. I think Alex Van Pelt’s outstanding at teaching protections. That’s something that we spend a lot of time on.”


How have you seen Deshaun’s ownership of that leadership role? Not just offensively, but just collectively, the team evolved this year, maybe compared to what it was last year. 

“Hard to compare to last year. I would just tell you, leadership is something that Deshaun has come very natural to him his entire life. I mean, you go back to high school days, winning championships, college, the pros, playing at a high level, but it’s always been easy for him to be out in front – to address the team, to address his teammates, to develop relationships, real, authentic relationships for his teammates. That’s very natural for him. I think with our players, and when it comes to leadership, I just want to give the best version of them. And the version of Deshaun is one that’s very out in front.”


In what ways has your partnership with him evolved from the first time you met him? 

“I think with any player, you’re constantly learning about each other on a personal level, and then on a football level for sure. You’re trying to find out what fits, what you like, those types of things. But the more time you’re around anybody, you get to know them better. So certainly we spend a ton of time together just in that quarterback room with AVP (Alex Van Pelt) and the quarterbacks. That’s really where you’re bunkered. You’re holed up with that crew for a lot of time. So we have a lot of conversations about a lot of different things.”


From a demeanor standpoint, Deshaun this year, compared to last year, everything that he had on his mind, do you notice more of a lightness? Is he less encumbered? 

“That’s a good question, Mary Kay. I would ask Deshaun that. I’d let him speak to that. Again, I would tell you I see a very committed football player.”


In 2017 when you were with the Vikings, did you do any interviewing or quarterbacks in the draft? Did you meet Deshaun back then? 

“I did not meet Deshaun back then. You’d have to tell me who else was in that class.”


(Patrick) Mahomes, (Mitchell) Trubisky. 

“I talked to a few of those guys at the combine. I did not talk to Deshaun, though. If my memory serves.”


You were involved in that process though?

“For sure.”


There’s a lot of discussion league-wide about the value of a running back in today’s game. As a play caller, is a running back still as valuable as it once was?

“I mean, for us it is. I mean, we got the best in the business, in my opinion, and I know that conversation and I know it’s complicated, but for us, we’re thrilled with the guys we have.”


How do you think it’s gotten to this point? Why do you feel like it’s gotten where you see guys like Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs? I’m not asking to speak specifically, but get to that point?

“I went to Penn, but I wasn’t in Morton, the business school, so I’m not smart enough to give you an economic dissertation.”


When Nick Chubb’s not in the game, you’ve got guys who want to step up. So when he’s not when Nick Chubb’s not playing, what makes the running back position valuable to the Browns when it’s not Nick Chubb on the field?

“We’ve had a lot of success just in our time here with Kareem (Hunt) and D’Ernest Johnson, and we feel confident in our run schemes. We feel really confident in our offensive line, our tight ends. So we’re high on that running back room. But it’s like anything else, it’s not just one person. And even Nick would tell you that he needs ten other guys doing their job to be effective in the run game.”



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