Kevin Stefanski, press conference, Jan. 14, 2020

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(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Mike Annarella

Communications Coordinator

Owner Jimmy Haslam

Introduction:

“Alright, good afternoon. Really exciting day for the city of Cleveland, Northeast Ohio, our players our great fans, and really, the entire Browns organization as we welcome Kevin Stefanski as the new [head] coach of the Cleveland Browns. So Kevin, welcome. Before we bring Kevin up, we do want to recognize his entire family that is here, and pardon me, I am going to have to look at my notes a little bit. Wife Michelle, daughter Juliette, boys Gabe and Will, welcome. Glad to have you all here. Father, Ed and then brothers Ed, Matt [and] Dave and mom Karen, so thank you all for coming in. I’ll remark to your brothers, Kevin, Paul [DePodesta], we did this extensive reference check and we forgot to ask the brothers. I am just still curious if he would have cleared the mark. His dad quickly asked if the contract had been signed, but welcome, glad to have you all here. I think we addressed the media 12 days ago and said that we are going to embark on a very methodical process, oriented search process. We were not going to limit the number of people we were going to talk to. We had eight individuals that either we went to see or the came to see us, depending if they were in the playoffs or not. We said we were looking for the following: Somebody that was a really good leader, who could relate to our players and really everybody in our organization. Someone who is smart and also football smart. We did extensive reference checking on all the candidates, and we had some outstanding candidates. And Kevin’s references, whether they were players, former players, coaches, former coaches, people he worked with particularly in the Vikings organization or people that use to work there, all were outstanding and I cannot stress that enough. We are very excited to have Kevin. We are going to bring him up and I know you will all give him a warm welcome. Kevin Stefanski, the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns.”

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening Statement:

“Good afternoon. I am beyond honored to stand before you today as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. I have to start with thank yous and I am going to start with Dee (Haslam) and Jimmy (Haslam), thank you. I am looking forward to leading your football team. Your passion is real and I want to be a part of it. The search committee, Paul DePodesta, JW Johnson, Chris Cooper, in our conversations, I understand that we are going to work well together to achieve that team success. The entire Browns staff, just being in the building now for 48 hours, I can tell you we have outstanding people in that building. I am so impressed with the group that we have put together there already, and as I will talk about in a little bit, it is about people. For us to build our winning culture that we are getting ready to build here, it is going to take each and every one of our members of Browns staff and I am really excited to get to know all of them. I need to say thank you to the Minnesota Vikings, the Wilf family and their ownership group. They were so good to me for 14 seasons, so good to me and my family, and I am forever indebted to them. To the coaches, Coach Zimmer, who gave me my first positon coaching job. Moved me to running backs, moved me to tight ends, to quarterbacks [and] hired me as his coordinator. He let me grow as a coach, had a great impact on me and developing me into the coach that I am today. Leslie Frasier, Brad Childress, who hired me in 2006, Gary Kubiak. There is countless names, that again, have shaped me into the man and the coach that I am today. I would be remised if I did not talk about the Vikings players. There were some Hall-of-Fame caliber players and some Hall-of-Fame caliber people there, and I forged some lifelong relationships and I am looking forward to maintaining those relationships as we moved forward. I also need to acknowledge my family here. My wife Michelle, my boys Will and Gabe, my daughter Juliette. If anyone with young children and if you have moved before, you know it is a tough 48 hours we have been through. We have made some promises to these children. We are getting a dog, we are going to Disney World and lord knows what else has been promised since you guys got here. I have to acknowledge my brothers, my parents, Ed and Karen, my brothers Ed, Matt and David. Thank you for being here. Being with one organization for 14 seasons, I was fortunate and I saw a lot and in the NFL, as everyone knows, a lot happens year in and year out. I served different roles there. When I walked in the door, I was assistant to the head coach and that encompasses anything and everything, so I know what it is like to grind. There is no task that is too menial and I know how important every role in an organization, the impact it plays on winning. I was shaped by different mentors, I mentioned some of those coaches previously. I worked in different offensive systems with different philosophies, different personalities and different terminology and I think ultimately, that has shaped me into how I am as a coach and how I am as a person. First and foremost, success starts with people, and I know we will talk a lot about culture, but it is absolutely about the people. Everyone knows the Harry Truman quote, ‘It is amazing what you can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit.’ And that is what I believe we have in our building. We have great people; I know we are going to add to it. We are going to hire a GM here in the next week or two and we are going to add to this culture that we are building here and we have the right people. Again, I just cannot stress enough how excited I am to be just a part of it. My leadership style is to be authentic. I am going to be me, and I think that is good enough and I am going to be direct with our players and they are going to get to know me and I am going to get to know them. I want to lead from a relationship standpoint and I want them to understand what I am about, but there will be no mistake. Just like today, I am ready and willing and excited to lead from out in front as I stand before you. I am also ready and willing to step back and let the success and shine the light on our players, which is where it should be. To use basketball terms so that my dad can understand this, I want to be the point guard for this organization. I want to bring the ball up, but then I want to share the basketball with someone else to get an easy bucket. No smiling over there. I am not going to stand up here and make any bold predictions about what we are going to do this year. I am not going to speak anything into existence right now. I can just promise you that we are going to work. I have spoken to a few of our players already and that is what I am about. I am about working and I am about putting a foundation together. We will be methodical about it. We will not skip steps two and three to get to four. We are going to start in the foundation and then reinforce that foundation, so that we can build upon it. When I am talking about this, I am talking about schemes and technique. We will be diligent about working with our players so that they can develop into the best version of themselves, and ultimately, we are building a foundation for what we hope is a championship effort. We will have a culture of accountability, we will have structures in place, the players will understand our rules and what we are about, and we are going to be demanding and we are going to hold each player accountable. Ultimately, I know this about players, they may not come out and ask you for that, but that is what they want. I have a great respect for the alumni of this storied franchise. I pinch myself to think I am going to talk to Jim Brown later today. That is my dad’s favorite player growing up, so have heard all about Jim Brown as a young kid, and that is special to me. There are so many amazing people from this franchise that I want to get to know and meet, and I am excited for that. I am excited to get to know Cleveland. Can I take a poll of the room, east side or west side? I am still trying to figure that out, but it is an incredible place. I have gotten to know some people, met some people at the pizzeria last night, and it is a passionate group and that is what I am about and that is what I understand about this fan base. This fan base, they are incredible and I cannot wait to meet more of them and they deserve a winner. We are going to work tirelessly to deliver that to them.”

On being undeterred:

"That is a great word - I am undeterred and I am undaunted. And I think the challenge is there and I cannot wait to be a part of this change. Again, why am I confident about that, because I have been in the building. I know the people that we have. I know we are going to add to that building. I know we are going to add players, as it happens in the NFL, but I am excited for this challenge and I am ready for it."

On if he will call plays as the head coach:

"I think we are going to work through that. I think as we put the staff together, if there is someone that is on staff that I feel gives us the best chance to win - that person will call the plays. It does not have to be me. But I think I want to work through that and see as we put the staff together."

On what makes him different from other Browns coaches and why is it going to be different: 

"I understand that and for me - and it is easy: the focus is [on] 2020. We are not looking backward, we are looking forward. I hope all of our players know that, too. When they walk in the building, whenever it is in April, we are moving forward. Anything that has happened in the past does not affect our future. I am just confident in the group that we have."

On what is it about him, his vision and philosophy that really aligns with the Browns Chief Strategy Officer and the future General Manager:

"Well, I think ‘alignmen’ is a great word. Another way of saying it - we are all on the same page. I think that is important. We know this, if we are plowing in the same direction, we got a chance. I think as we sit down and start bringing in some candidates and interviewing general manager candidates - it sounds simple, but let's all be on the same page. Let's all know that this thing is about a shared vision. It is not about what Kevin Stefanski wants for the Cleveland Browns. We have a vision of what this is going to look like moving forward and it is a collective vision."

On how much will he rely on others in the organization when putting a staff together: 

"We are going to take our time and do it the right way. I have been with one organization, but you get to know a lot of people and you grow as a coach and you understand meeting different people. There is no shortage of candidates, and also, we have got to meet with the current staff. Sit down with everybody and spend some time with them. We are definitely going to take our time and be diligent about it."  

On to what extent has he been able to evaluate QB Baker Mayfield:

"I spoke to Baker briefly yesterday. He is down in Austin, Texas, caught up with him for just a minute. He is the quarterback. He is the trigger man and that is the exciting part for me. I worked with a lot of quarterbacks, a lot of great ones over the years, and I am looking forward to hunkering down with him and getting to work. Like any one of our players, when they walk in the building, we will have a detailed plan for them about how they are going to improve. Baker, as a young player, the sky is the limit, but we are going to put in the work to get it done with Baker. I am still in the infancy of studying last year and will identify some things as we get going. Certainly, when you are talking about this job and this franchise and everything that goes with it, you think about the quarterback. I think the sky is the limit for the kid."

On what can he take from experience from being with so many other quarterbacks:

"Yeah, I think it is terrific that I can pull from different experiences. And I know this, they come in all shapes and sizes. There is different styles. I will just tell you the skillset that our quarterback has is legit. He is as accurate as they come. I think there are plenty of things that we will do schematically to, hopefully, make life easier on him, and looking forward to the jump that this kid will take. He is such a young player and the guys I have been around, when they put their mind to it and they start to grind on this thing and understand the whys and the concepts that we are teaching, I really think this kid has a chance to takeoff."

On what potential does he see in the entire offense:

"Number one, we have some good players to work with. Looking forward to it, I talked to (WR) Odell Beckham Jr. briefly, (WR) Jarvis (Landry), the two receivers and we have running backs. It is nice to sit here and start to think about how we can attack a defense. Because, you can do it and be multiple, and that is one of the things you will hear me talk about is being multiple. And I bring that up because it is just these defenses are so good in the NFL, that if you are one dimensional, they can kind of pin their ears back. We will try to be explosive, obviously, in the run and pass game. But starting with the players, as we think about putting our scheme together. We are going to start with our guys and then we are going to maximize the talents of the key players."

On if he wants to bring the former Vikings offensive assistant coach Gary Kubiak’s offensive system:

"So this past season was my first year as a full-time coordinator. So as we put our offense together this year, it was really my chance with all of our coaches put a system together that we collectively believed in. So certainly, as I think about what we are going to do here, it is probably the jumping off point is where we started last year. You can call it any system you want and we will just make sure it is the Cleveland Browns system."

On if he thought he was ready in the interview process last year and what did he learn this season as offensive coordinator:

"In terms of being ready, you are not ready for anything until you do it. Luckily, I was surrounded by some really good coaches this past year and a half to help me through that process. I will just tell you, it is like anything else - you learn from your mistakes, you try to get better. Tried to be as critical as I could be. Look at my play calls and our plays and what we could have done differently. It is like anything else, I do believe you get better as you go, as you take in reps and that certainly was something for me. As a play caller, you are making a lot of decisions on game day, and you are making 70 decisions and you are going quickly and you making quick decisions. Fortunately, I will be surrounded by a bunch of really good coaches and I think we will have the players that can equip a play caller some confidence in calling plays."

On what was it like to him last year to get the second interview and not get the job:

"Honestly, the focus is so much for there here and now. I am always eager to talk to people and get to know people I do not know. So going through that process, I think, was really helpful to understand a different way of doing things and meet new people, honestly. I just always thought very strongly of the people in this organization. So when the time came around this year, I just jumped at it, because I think it is the right...It starts with the people and I think we have the right people."

On if he believes in running the ball on first and second down or if it will change:

"I think ultimately, this is the AFC North, so the physicality, that aspect of the game will never be too far from our thoughts. We are looking to be explosive. If that happens in our run game based on our personnel, that is terrific. If it is through the pass game, that is great too. So ultimately, what you will hear me talk about a lot is the marriage of the run and the pass game. That is very important. I come at it from at it from a different perspective. I played defensive back in college, and not well. When I played, I know what that feels like when you have a run that looks like that pass and a pass that looks like a run. I can tell you in putting our scheme together last year - it was very comforting when you had a player like [Vikings S] Harrison Smith come up to you and tell you, man, that is a tough scheme that you are running. This is really hard on the defense.' That gave us great confidence knowing that we were down the right path."

On how does he get guys through troubled waters:

"I think you have to be the same person every day when you walk in that building - win, lose or draw. I think our players will understand from me that I am going to do everything in my power to put them in position to succeed. As you play in this NFL, you may have adversity in a series, in a game, in a half, week to week. We need to tackle that and be a resilient bunch. But it is not going to happen from flipping a switch or me saying something to them just in the moment. You have to start building that mentality. And that is what we will be about this spring and summer. That is when we start to develop this, so that when those challenging times do arise and they will, that our guys are ready to navigate those waters."

On if he has heard input from other people telling him not to do too much when it pertains to calling plays:

"I have had really good conversations with a bunch of head coaches, some that have called the plays, some that have not. I just think we need to work through that as we put our staff together. Again, I am all about what is best for the Cleveland Browns. If that is me calling the plays, great. If it is not, I am fine with that too."

On if is more prepared for the head coaching spot now than he was a year ago:

"I would hope so. I feel like in this last calendar year, I feel like I have become a better coach. It is something that I am going to strive for every year is to become a better and the fact that now I am the head coach for the Cleveland Browns, is obviously new. If anything, that means my kids are excited that I will be in Madden next year (laughter). But I am ready for the challenge."

On what offensive piece does he lean on his core:

"You mentioned two good ones right there. I think for each quarterback, they are all so different. What encourage them is to be themselves and to lead in their own way. That quarterback position, in terms of leadership is very much at the forefront of what you are talking about. I am going to use those lessons I learned with those guys mentioned and many more. Just talk to Baker and all of our quarterbacks and make sure that they are the leaders of the group. That is how it operates, whether they like it or not. I think Baker certainly has a way about him that lends itself to that. Just in terms of schematically what I believe in. Again, I cannot ever get away from a physical brand of football. Not in this division. But ultimately, we are going to try to look to be attacking on offense and defense. And like I mentioned, multiple in a bunch of different areas. Whether that means personnel, formation, etc."

On his experience with analytics and if that helped him win the job:

“I am looking for any edge we can get on game day and certainly analytics, I know, is another buzzword out there. We are looking to make informed decisions. As a play caller, or whether it be player evaluation, information is power, so we like to have a lot of information that informs our decisions. I think the setup that we have here, and meeting with the guys this morning was incredible. I think we are well on our way where we can provide impactful information to our coaches, to our personnel department that can really help the product in terms of wins and losses.

On the importance of having diversity within his coaching staff and how he can help improve upon that within the league:

“I am glad you asked that because it is important, and I am going to do everything in my power and my role to affect change there. It is something that I brought up when I met with Dee and Jimmy last year, and it is important to me that we develop minority coaches, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Last year in Minnesota, we hired two African American quality control coaches on the offensive side of the ball because it is important to develop young coaches in that area. That is the way that I can affect that change.”

On how analytics can help on game day and personnel decisions and if it is true that he must meet every Friday and present his game plan:

“It is not true. I liked that report, that was a good one. It is silly season for that type of stuff and I understand that. To me, analytics, I cannot say it enough, it is a tool. How does it help on game day? Well I would met with some of our people with the Vikings and they would help me understand as we got into this ball game, down and distance wise, field position wise where a coordinator may be more apt to blitz. So really, it is something as a play caller was formulating a plan of attack, you start to take in that information. That really was helpful and I can tell you certain decisions you make, whether it be for protection or when to run certain plays, you have that in mind and you have some information that was able to be gathered by compiling that data. I just think it is another tool when it comes to play calling and personnel. Again, something that the Vikings did, something that I know the Browns do. It just provides more information. We have so much of this information; we have years of it, so let’s use it to our advantage.

On the constant turnover of coaching staff for the players and how he can bring them together:

“They are a resilient group and I think when we get in front of those players and we start outlining our structure and how we are going to do things, I have no doubt a player like Baker, as you mentioned, all of our players, will understand that my job is to make them better football players. Our coaches’ jobs are to develop them as football players. Once they start to hear that message and start to understand that message, I truly believe they will understand what we are getting ready to build here. Baker, as you pointed out, the kid is talented and I am excited to get to work with him. I am excited for our coaches to get to work with him, but the operative word there is work, so we are going to get him back in the building when it is time and we are going to start to put a plan together.”

On the hardest questions he endured in his interview process:

“You know, honestly, in that interview process, so much of it is them getting to know me, me getting to know them and it is really, you are asking question on both sides. At the end of the day, I think the fit was there. Certainly, with what Jimmy and Dee, as they put this thing together, their vision for what this football team is going to look like is a shared vision with me. I understand what they want this team to look like and it is going to be a team that our fans are proud of, but again, I do not want to sit up here and tell you chapter and verse of what we are going to do. We have to be about the work and then worry about that when September comes around.”

On how he handled coaching for the Vikings in the playoffs knowing win or lose, his life could change:

“You know, when you are coaching and when you are in that bubble, and you have those blinders on, the outside world really does not affect you, and that is the truth. As an offensive coordinator, or any coach really, there is so much work to do, there is so much that goes into it in terms of preparing your players. So all of those distractions, anything that is out there, when it is time to prepare, when it is time to put a game plan together, when it is time to go to the stadium, you really have nothing else in mind but that game and that day.”

On what reassurances he received from Browns ownership that he will have more than two years to turn things around:

“I think Dee and Jimmy chose me to be the football coach and we are very comfortable with what we are going to do here with the Cleveland Browns. I think we are so focused on the here and now and I can tell you all of the meetings we have had so far with our staff, we are ready to put this thing together with the right people. I know we have a couple more, in particular with the general manager positon, there are a couple more things to do, but there is definitely a shared vision there, and I am ready to lead this charge.”

On how he can convince players like WR Odell Beckham Jr. to participate in voluntary OTA practices in the offseason:

“It is voluntary. I will tell you, I think it is important. I think it’s going to be time for us to start implementing our schemes. It is team building, so I am looking forward to the players and having them back in the building, but ultimately, like you mentioned, it is voluntary.”

On possible candidates for his staff and if he will retain any coaches from the previous staff:

“The first part is important. We are going to talk to every single coach that is there because they are some good coaches, obviously. I want to make sure I sit down with everybody. I am going to do that today, tomorrow and however many days that takes and understand them as coaches. Get a feel for them and that type of thing, so we will do that first. Then we will huddle up, along with everybody, and start to put some names together and put a list together and get started. We are going to be very methodical about this. There is truly no rush to this. We want to get it right.”

On how his leadership style will change from coordinator to head coach and how he handles personalities:

“Yeah, I do not mind personality, because I respect guys that work. Personality is welcome, your production is required. I understand that like every team that I have ever been on, there are going to be some guys that bring some different personalities, and I welcome that. But in terms of how that is going to go, it is too hard to say in this moment. I think once we get the guys in the building, we will start to build this thing.”

On having worked with Gary Kubiak and if having a senior offensive assistant role is invaluable:

“Well, I can just speak to Gary’s role and he was invaluable. I think the absolute world of Gary Kubiak the person and the coach, and it starts with the person. An amazing coach, great family man. Again, he and I see the game very similarly. What we were able to do together, working together was unique and I enjoyed every single minute of it. I am going to call him here before it is all over. He is probably on that ranch right now down there in Texas. Just a good man, one of many lifelong relationships that I forged over there with the Vikings, but he is one of many that I really am looking forward to staying in touch, obviously.”

On the young core of the Cleveland Browns roster and his vision moving forward with those players or if changes will be made:

“Well, I think every year it is never the same 53 that come back year to year, so certainly we will be looking to add, augment and get better at every position. You mentioned those core guys and those are some really good young football players, so that is where this job was so attractive to me because not only do we have the right people in the building, we have the right players in the building. We will add to it, I do not dispute that, but you mentioned those guys and those are some good players at multiple positions, so it is definitely somewhere where we have a really good start on this.”

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