CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – It didn’t take Kevin Stefanski long to move on from 2020 and hit the reset button.
With the calendar flipping to March this week, Stefanski’s attention and energy is on the offseason business that swings into full gear this month from free agency to their ongoing draft preparation.
The NFL's Coach of the Year will leave the conversations about the sweeping culture change as a result of an 11-5 season and their first playoff victory in over a quarter century to the pundits outside the building because his work isn't done.
“I really look at it as Year 1 for us,” Stefanski said Tuesday during a Zoom video conference that substituted for his normal media availability during the NFL Combine, which was cancelled. “I was not here prior to last year. We laid a foundation, but it is really, really important that everybody in this building and all of our players understand we have to get better.
“To say we are just going to be right back where we left off, that is not the case. It just does not happen that way. We have to work at it.”
Since falling to Kansas City 22-17 in the divisional round, Stefanski and his staff have been examining thoroughly what went right, wrong and what needs to change in 2021 for them to not only return to the playoffs but potentially get deeper into January.
“My focus, our focus as a staff, as a team, we have to get better. We have to improve,” Stefanski said. “We, as coaches, have to pull this thing apart and find ways to improve schematically. We have to evolve, and I think that’s been a big part of our process to date.
“As coaches, we have to be better. I have to be a better coach next year for this team and that's my goal and we're working really hard to find different ways for each of us to get better.”
Stefanski spoke in generalities, as he often does, without revealing much in the way of specifics, but what is clear is that the results of the autopsy are in and he is not satisfied.
That research isn’t just limited to his own offense and defense either.
Stefanski and his staff have also been examining trends, schemes and plays around the league.
“I think what we are trying to do is fine tune and hone in on the things we are good at while looking at what other people are doing and seeing if that fits us,” Stefanski said. “I make no bad bones about it – we will steal from everybody if it is a good idea. We are watching a lot of tape of the NFL players and we are watching college tape, and if we think it might help us, we will definitely make it part of our offense.”
The Browns remain one of four franchises to have never made it to a Super Bowl and the success of 2020 has the bar being raised in Cleveland among fans, who hope that they’ll get to play in the game instead of watch on TV very soon.
“Every year, you want to see what they are doing in that game,” Stefanski said. “I think as coaches, we are always looking at what the schemes are in that game because everyone is watching, and it is amazing how a play in that game will show up in Week 1 of the season for everybody. Definitely looking at it from an X’s and O’s standpoint.
“As it relates to us, I would just tell you we go back to square one in 2021. We have a lot of work to do, and we are eager to get that work started, whenever that may be.”