CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have named long-time NFL assistant coach Kevin Stefanski the franchise’s next on-field leader, the team confirmed Monday evening.
Stefanski, 37, is the 18th full-time head coach in the history of the Browns organization and the 10th since the team returned to the National Football League ahead of the 1999 season.
“It’s very exciting, obviously, for me and my family,” Stefanski said in a release announcing the move. “We’re really looking forward to moving out here and getting situated in Cleveland and the adventure of it all. From my professional level, I just could not be more eager to get to work with this group.
“I think we have some really good players here. I think we have some outstanding people in this building. I know we have to add a GM and add some more pieces to this puzzle. I think the eager part for me is to get to work, buckle down and start to put together a program.”
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and son of a long-time NBA executive, Stefanski was chosen to be the next Browns coach over several top coordinators around the league, including Eric Bieniemy (Kansas City Chiefs), Josh McDaniels (New England Patriots), Brian Daboll (Buffalo Bills), Greg Roman (Baltimore Ravens), Robert Saleh (San Francisco 49ers) and Jim Schwartz (Philadelphia Eagles), as well as a Super Bowl winner in Mike McCarthy.
The Browns wanted a new head coach with NFL coaching experience, and Stefanski fits that bill.
Stefanski is a long-time NFL assistant with the Vikings, where he most recently served as offensive coordinator in 2019 after previously mentoring the quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends in 13 seasons with the club.
“We are thrilled to welcome Kevin as the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns,” Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in the release. “We were looking for a strong leader of this football team, a very bright coach with a high football IQ, who could establish a strong understanding of what he expected of his players, hold them accountable and confidently navigate the challenges and opportunities that present themselves throughout a season.
“Kevin exemplifies these qualities and more. He has a tremendous ability to relate well and communicate well with his players, has experienced many coaching facets of a team and understands how to put them in the best position to succeed while also establishing a winning culture.”
In 2009, Stefanski helped Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre transition into the system after joining the team in mid-August, and the experiment was a successful one, as the Vikings earned their way to the NFC Championship Game.
In 2012, Stefanski helped improve the play of former quarterback Christian Ponder, who led the Vikings to a 4-0 stretch in the final weeks of the season, as well as a playoff berth. Ponder’s best outing came in a must-win situation late in the season, and he did not throw an interception over the final three games.
After mentoring the tight ends (2014-2015) and running backs (2016), Stefanski transitioned to quarterbacks coach, where in 2017, he helped the Vikings overcome injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford by leading Case Keenum to his most successful professional season.
Under Stefanski’s guidance, Keenum posted an 11-3 record after completing 325 of his 481 attempts (67.6 percent) for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. Despite being sacked 22 times, Keenum had a career-best 98.3 quarterback rating.
“I chased this thing and never knew where it was going to lead,” Stefanski said. “It led through the Vikings and spent great years there, impressionable years for me being able to coach multiple positions and work under different coordinators and different philosophies.
“I really feel like I grew as a coach there, and they allowed me to grow, which was outstanding. I just kind of chased this thing and here’s where it landed right now. I couldn’t be happier that I’m here to help this franchise.”