CLEVELAND — Kevin Stefanski may be a first-year head coach in the National Football League, but he is doing plenty to combat his lack of experience in that role, especially when it comes to building his first coaching staff with the Cleveland Browns.
Stefanski is surrounding himself with a diverse and experienced group of assistant coaches, including Bill Callahan, who has head coaching experience at the college and professional levels.
“I want good people and good coaches, but I am starting with good people,” Stefanski said. “I can promise you as we have gone through this process, it was not important to me to hire a staff in a day.
“We could have done that, but that would have not been the best thing for the Browns. It has been so important to make sure we are adding the right people with diversity of thought, diversity of race, gender, all of the above, age or you name it, but making sure that it is the right mix of people first and foremost.”
Callahan brings with him to Cleveland 21 years of NFL coaching experience, including a two-year run as a head coach of the Oakland Raiders (2002-2003) and in an interim role for much of the 2019 season after Washington dismissed Jay Gruden.
Additionally, Callahan has 19 years of coaching experience at the collegiate level, including a four-year stint as head coach at the University of Nebraska (2004-2007).
As an NFL head coach, Callahan posted a 20-26 regular-season record (.435 winning percentage), but was 2-1 in postseason play with the Raiders, whom he led to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII. It was the Raiders’ only Super Bowl appearance in their second tenure in Oakland.
“It has been great,” Stefanski said. “Coach Callahan, I just have a ton of a respect for the man just spending some time with him in that meeting room and hearing how he coaches certain techniques and some of the schemes that we are going to employ.
“Very excited for what he brings to the table. His experience as a head coach at the collegiate and the professional level is something that I am going to lean on heavily.”
On Monday, Stefanski made another hire when he brought on former NFL quarterback and Cincinnati Bengals position coach Alex Van Pelt to serve as offensive coordinator.
In addition to his tenure with the Bengals, where he was a quarterbacks coach under Marvin Lewis in 2018 and Zac Taylor in 2019, Van Pelt worked with the Green Bay Packers (2012-2017), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2010-2011), Buffalo Bills (2006-2009) and Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe (2005).
Van Pelt has worked as a quality control coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Bills and served as a quarterbacks coach for the Buccaneers for two seasons. Then, Van Pelt moved on to mentor Green Bay’s running backs (2012-2013) and quarterbacks (2014-2017) before joining the Bengals’ staff.
A late-round pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, Van Pelt played quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1993), Kansas City Chiefs (1993-1994) and Bills (1994-2003) during his 11-year career.
“He is a really fine man, first of all,” Stefanski said. “He is a family man.
“He is of the highest integrity, which matters a lot to me and to this organization. I think his reputation as an offensive mind, he played the game, played the [quarterback] position and has coached the position, so I think he just really checked all the boxes for me.”