By Andrew Gribble, ClevelandBrowns.com Senior Staff Writer
Kevin Stefanski knows firsthand the value of quality control coaches. As a young coach with the Vikings, Stefanski tackled a number of the tasks that’ll be regularly assigned to the new faces on his first staff as head coach of the Browns.
“It's the breeding ground for new coaches,” Stefanski said. “You're at the ground level. You're doing a lot of tasks that are menial and maybe not a lot of people want to do, but you're also sitting in all of the meetings and you're a sponge. You're learning and you're developing your own coaching voice.”
For 2020, Stefanski has tabbed Stephen Bravo-Brown as the Browns’ defensive quality control coach and Seitu Smith as the offensive quality control coach. Ryan Cordell will also serve in a similar capacity as a coaching assistant.
“I hope we added a bunch of good, high character coaches that over the course of the next few months and next few years can develop into great coaches in their own right,” Stefanski said.
Bravo-Brown, a former wide receiver at South Florida and Eastern Illinois, comes to Cleveland after coaching wide receivers at Missouri State. He’s been coaching since 2015, when he was hired as a wide receivers coach at Waldorf University, and spent three seasons at Wake Forest in a variety of coaching roles, including graduate assistant and assistant wide receivers coach.
"It is my dream to be a part of an NFL team,” Bravo-Brown said. “Just to be here and have an opportunity to win big with a bunch of good guys is unexplainable. I am excited to be here. Obviously want to keep on building and become the best coach I can be around these good coaches here - that is the goal. I am preparing for it."
In 2017, Bravo-Brown worked closely with Stefanski while spending time in Minnesota on a Bill Walsh NFL diversity coaching fellowship. The two stayed in touch in the time since, and Stefanski thought this kind of challenge -- working on the defensive side of the ball after playing as a wide receiver and primarily coaching offensive players -- would be perfectly suited for Bravo-Brown.
“He's a really sharp young coach and I think he's got a really bright future,” Stefanski said. “I'm so excited for him to now work with the defensive staff because he gets to bring his knowledge of the offensive side of the ball both as a player and a coach. I think that's always invaluable to a staff. He gets a chance to develop with some great teachers on the defensive side of the ball. I think his impact will be significant.”
Smith was also a wide receiver in college and starred as a return specialist at Harvard. He finished fourth in school history with a 9.6 career yards per punt return average and fifth with an average of 19.9 yards per kick return. He caught 84 passes for 939 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 304 yards and two scores on the ground over the course of his career.
Smith got his start coaching at Durham University in England while working on his master’s degree. When he returned to the U.S., Smith spent a year coaching running backs and linebackers while teaching math at J.P. Taravella High School in Florida before landing a director of player personnel position at Dartmouth. There, Smith worked alongside Browns Chief of Staff Callie Brownson before heading to Brown University, where he was a quarterbacks coach.
“Seitu is a really bright young coach. I think he's one of those young coaches you want to get in your building early and start developing,” Stefanski said. “I think he's got a high aptitude to learn. I think his work ethic is second to none and I think it's just another guy we get to get our hands on and grow and develop as coaches. Hopefully some of our veteran coaches can impart some wisdom on these guys along the way.”
Smith is certainly ready to receive that wisdom from a Browns offensive staff that includes veterans such as offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, offensive line coach Bill Callahan and pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea.
"I think if you add up their combined years of coaching, it probably is four times as old as I am,” Smith said. “I think that is something that I do not take for granted and I look to learn from these guys a lot."
Cordell, who enters his sixth year in the NFL, spent last season with the Browns as a football research analyst. He broke into the NFL in 2014 as an intern with the 49ers and filled a variety of roles under multiple coaches and general managers over a five-year period. He was an offensive assistant in 2015 and a football operations coordinator in 2016 before working as a special assistant to general manager John Lynch from 2017-18.
Cordell was coaching high school football in Annapolis, Maryland, when he got the fateful call from San Francisco.
“I got the opportunity, just hopped in my car and drove 3,000 miles,” Cordell said. “I took a little bit of a chance but it was a great opportunity and something that worked out really well for me.”
Injuries prevented Cordell from playing football beyond high school, but he’s known since his days as a student at Notre Dame he wanted to coach. His latest opportunity puts him back in that position.
“Ever since 2015, I have been trying to make my way back on a coaching staff. So it was really exciting when I got this opportunity here,” Cordell said. “Not only because it was back into coaching, but also the group of people that we are going to be working here on staff. Also, in the building at large.
“It has been great to see it all come together. I think that from the top with coach Stefanski all the way to the lower levels of the staff and throughout the building, a lot of people care about the Browns, they care about the winning and they care about going about things the right way. So it has been great to see that and have some other faces come together, something new. Some of it in terms of guys were here before, guys that I have worked with in the past and people that I am meeting for the first time. It has been great to start that process of working together as a staff."
Stephen Bravo-Brown’s Coaching Background:
2015 Waldorf University, wide receivers coach
2016 Wake Forest University, coordinator of offensive quality control
2017-18 Wake Forest University, graduate assistant/wide receivers assistant coach
2018 Minnesota Vikings, Bill Walsh NFL diversity coaching fellowship
2019 Missouri State University, wide receivers coach
2020- Cleveland Browns, defensive quality control coach
Seitu Smith’s Coaching Background:
2017 J.P. Taravella High School, running backs/linebackers coach
2018 Dartmouth College, director of player personnel
2019 Brown University, quarterbacks coach
2020- Cleveland Browns, offensive quality control coach
Ryan Cordell’s Coaching Background:
2015 San Francisco 49ers, offensive assistant
2016 San Francisco 49ers, football operations coordinator
2017-18 San Francisco 49ers, special assistant to the general manager
2019 Cleveland Browns, football research analyst
2020- Cleveland Browns, coaching assistant