CLEVELAND — “If, at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
A finalist for the Cleveland Browns’ head coach vacancy in January of 2019, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski once again was interviewed by the search committee, and this time around, he reportedly was the last man standing.
According to multiple reports, Stefanski will be hired as the Browns’ 18th full-time head coach and 10th since their return to the National Football League prior to the start of the 1999 season.
Stefanski reportedly was chosen to be the Browns’ next 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 (49ers) and Jim Schwartz (Philadelphia Eagles).
Here are five things to know about Stefanski.
Family ties to athletics
A graduate of St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, and also, the University of Pennsylvania, Stefanski is the son of long-time basketball executive, Ed Stefanski.
Following a standout playing career at Penn, Ed Stefanski took his love for the game into the front office, where he currently works for the Detroit Pistons. Previously, Ed Stefanski served in executive capacities with the New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies.
While earning a bachelor’s degree in communications, Stefanski was a standout defensive player for the Quakers.
Stefanski was a two-time Honorable Mention All-Ivy League choice (2002, 2004) and Penn’s Defensive Rookie of the Year during the 2000 season. With Stefanski on the roster, Penn went 42-7 and 32-3 in Ivy League play.
During Stefanski’s senior season, Penn finished off a 10-0 slate. It was the school’s first undefeated season in 10 years.
Track record of success
Stefanski helped the Vikings to a 117-105-2 regular-season record during his 13 years in Minnesota. Since Stefanski arrived in 2006, the Vikings made six trips to the postseason, including two appearances in the NFC Championship Game, and brought home four NFC North Division championships.
With Stefanski on staff, the Vikings won 10 or more games six times, including the second-best finish in franchise history. The 2017 Vikings posted a 13-3 record, which ranks second only to the 15-1 mark set in 1998.
Extensive coaching background
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 and pushed the eventual champion New Orleans Saints to overtime.
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 performance came in a must-win situation late in the season, and he did not throw an interception over the final three games.
A position coach for the next several years, Stefanski took over play-calling duties from John DeFilippo late in the 2018 season and the “interim” tag was removed ahead of 2019, another year that ended in a playoff berth for the Vikings.
Gets most out of players
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.
Working against adverse situations is something Stefanski did before 2017, as the Vikings lost running back Adrian Peterson for 13 games because of injury in 2016. In Peterson’s absence, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata combined for 941 yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
McKinnon served not only as a running back, but also, a wildcat quarterback to help spark the run game. Also, McKinnon had a career-high 43 catches, which was only five away from matching his career total (48) coming into the 2016 season.