CLEVELAND — “Analytics” is a word that has evoked plenty of emotions in Cleveland Browns fans over the last four seasons because of a 1-31 stretch over 2016 and 2017 and more failed picks in the NFL Draft, but new coach Kevin Stefanski is not afraid of thinking outside the box.
Regardless of what the fans think about “analytics,” Stefanski embraces the acquisition of information as a way to have the Browns’ players and coaches better prepared for all contingencies on game day.
“I am looking for any edge we can get on game day and certainly analytics,” Stefanski said during his introductory press conference at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland Tuesday. “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.”
When the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens last January instead of Stefanski, the Minnesota Vikings’ interim offensive coordinator at the time, it was viewed as the football side of the organization winning out over the analytics department.
Fast-forward a year and the Browns once again found themselves looking for a head coach, but in Stefanski, they get the best of both worlds.
“To me, analytics, I cannot say it enough, it is a tool,” Stefanski said. “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.
“Really, it is something as a play caller was formulating a plan of attack, you start to take in that information.”
In addition to the analytics, Stefanski has extensive experience as an NFL coach, as the long-time Vikings assistant, 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.
The interim offensive coordinator in the final weeks of the 2018 season, Stefanski was given Minnesota’s play-calling duties full time heading into 2019, and the results were positive.
The Vikings averaged 25.4 points, 353.5 yards of total offense and 133.3 rush yards per game. They finished top 10 in points scored (eighth) and rush yards (sixth) while being in the middle of the pack in the NFL in total yards.
“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,” Stefanski said.
“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.”