What is there left to say about the football organisation known as the Cleveland Browns?
That they made a well-informed, level-headed, non-reactionary decision?
Yeah, there’s that.
Following the Minnesota Vikings‘ Divisional Round exit, the Browns announced the hiring of Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as their new head coach.
The move comes with its fair share of criticism and understandably so. The Vikings failed to show up in the biggest game of their season, being beaten convincingly 10-27 by San Francisco. The Vikings offence, the unit Stefanski is in charge of, surmised 7 first downs and only 147 yards of offence. The bulk of which came on Minnesota’s opening drive thanks to a terrible cornerback play from Akhello Witherspoon.
Stefanski’s final outing with Minnesota left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans. However, throughout the past two seasons and in particular this most recent one, Stefanski and the Vikings have had one of the better offences in the NFL. In the case of Stefanski being hired as Cleveland head coach, it is not a matter of how good his offence is in the standings, but how well suited this Browns personnel is to his offence.
Freddie Kitchens’ offence for the Browns was centred around a down-the-field, vertical passing attack. Baker Mayfield would often find himself standing in the pocket for more than three seconds waiting for a play to develop. Even if the mediocre-to-bad offensive line held up, it was never certain that Mayfield would hit his target 100% of the time. As a result, more often than not, the Browns offensive drives would stall out due to a sack, holding penalties or an interception.
The Stefanski offence stems from the Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak tree. This season Kubiak himself worked as an offensive assistant to Stefanski in Minnesota.
In Minnesota, Stefanski had a litany of weapons at his disposal. Dalvin Cook, C.J. Ham, Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Very few organisations in the NFL can boast a similar list of offensive weapons. Cleveland is one of them.
Although the memes write themselves, Stefanski is a sensible choice for Cleveland. During the head coach search last year, Paul DePodesta, the chief strategy officer for the Browns, fought hard for Stefanski but Jimmy Haslam flexed his owner-muscle and went with Kitchens. This time, and maybe for the first time, Haslam listens to the analytics and goes with DePodesta’s decision.
Hopefully, for Haslam, DePodesta, Mayfield and the city of Cleveland, the Browns do not find themselves in the same position this time next year and with Stefanski, I don’t think they will.