There were a lot of doubters when Minnesota Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski was roped in for the Head Coach gig at Cleveland in January 2020. Many felt that he wasn’t a significant upgrade over previous Head Coach Freddie Kitchens who had just led the Cleveland Browns to a 6-10 regular season record.
But come January 2021, the perceptions surrounding Stefanski have taken a turn for the better. What’s more, the Browns are in the Divisional Round and are taking on the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday.
Guiding the Browns to their first postseason appearance since 2002, Stefanski’s work at Cleveland has been nothing short of exemplary.
Battling through the odds in a season which continues to be ravaged by COVID-19, the Browns finished with a regular season record of 11-5.
Primarily hit by the virus in the tail-end of the regular season, Stefanski and his players, in a display of their determination and discipline, defied all odds to make it to the Playoffs.
But the virus outbreak ended up following the Browns into the postseason as well. Right before their first playoff game in 18 years, news broke that Kevin Stefanski had contracted the virus.
This was a critical blow to a side that was dreaming to make a mark on the playoff scene. With many ruling out the Browns against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card game, the Cleveland-based franchise put on a show to remember.
With Stefanski in isolation and far away from Heinz Field, the Browns upset win over their division rivals showed just how far the team had come under his tutelage.
Even apart from the virus outbreak, Stefanski has had all the answers when it comes to problems. But his most significant contribution seems to be tapping into QB Baker Mayfield’s true potential.
Under Kitchens, Mayfield looked sub-par at best. He had the occasional good game, but struggled through vast spells of the regular seasons. Being an OC earlier, Stefanski was quick to address and adapt the Browns’ playing style to aid Mayfield’s game.
This has done a world of good to Mayfield’s confidence and output on the field. Under Kevin Stefanski’s guidance, Mayfield has been putting up career-best figures.
In fact, in the final 7 games of the regular season, Mayfield was averaging close to 300 yards a game. But perhaps the most important aspect of Mayfield’s improvement has been his tendency to throw fewer interceptions.
Down from 21 interceptions in 2019 to just 8 in 2020, Mayfield is no longer a turnover machine. Instead, he looks more and more like a franchise quarterback. A quarterback who has the tools to lead the Browns to Super Bowl success.
In Kevin Stefanski, the Browns have a competent Head Coach. A man who deserves the title of Coach of the Year. Stefanski offers much promise heading into the future. And with the efficiency with which he operates, the Browns look like a serious threat.