CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fa) – Against what seemed to be insurmountable odds, Kevin Stefanski galvanized the Browns and guided them to their best season in over 25 years.
On Thursday, Stefanski was named ‘Coach of the Year’ by the Pro Football Writers of America following voting by its members.
“It's just a reflection on the team,” Stefanski told Bull and Fox Thursday afternoon in an exclusive interview on 92.3 The Fan. “You have a bunch of good players. I could not be more proud of our coaching staff. I think the men and women that we assembled on this staff and the way they worked together, it was a collaborative effort.”
Stefanski is only the second Browns head coach to win the award. Marty Schottenheimer won it in 1986.
Under Stefanski, the Browns went 11-5 during the regular season to end the NFL’s longest playoff drought at 18 years, qualifying as the No. 6 seed in the AFC.
The 11 wins were the most by the franchise in the post-1999 expansion era and since 1994, while Stefanski won the most games for a first-year Browns head coach since Paul Brown won 12 in 1946, the year the franchise was founded.
“Any type of individual award for me or for any of our players I think speaks to the team,” Stefanski said. “So, if it sheds light on the great job that our coaching staff did, that our players did, then I'm all for it."
Despite not being able to practice in person until training camp, Stefanski was able to successfully install his offensive and defensive systems remotely during the offseason.
Cleveland’s offense scored 408 points during the regular season, second-most in franchise history. The Browns averaged 148.4 yards per game on the ground, third in the NFL and the highest average since 1978 for the team.
Stefanski was instrumental in the progression of quarterback Baker Mayfield in 2020. Mayfield’s completion percentage increased from 59.45 in 2019 to 62.8% in 2020 and his touchdown to interception ratio went from 22-21 last season to 26-8 this season. His rating jumped from 78.8 to 95.9.
Cleveland beat the Steelers on Super Wild Card Weekend, racing out to a 28-0 lead and prevailing 48-37, ending a 17-game losing streak at Heinz Field before falling to the Chiefs in the divisional round, 22-17.
“We hate how it ended, that’s not going to change,” Stefanski said. “I’m going to watch the tape about 400 more times, and then find a way to be better, and that would be my message to our fans. I think they understand that.”
“It was a season that it was fun, there was some great moments, some unbelievable performances by the guys, and now we’ve got to get better. That’s got to be our mindset and I promise you that when the players do get back here, that will be their mindset. Somehow or someway we have to get better.”
The award for Stefanski is just another in a long list of them for the Browns this season.
Defensive end Myles Garrett, right tackle Jack Conklin and left guard Joel Bitonio were named to the All-NFL team in voting conducted by members of the PFWA. The trio along with running back Nick Chubb were also named to the All-AFC Team.
Left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and tight end Harrison Bryant were named to the All-Rookie team by the PFWA.
Garrett and Conklin were named to the AP All-Pro first team last week. Bitonio was named to the second team along with right guard Wyatt Teller.
Garrett, Bitonio and Chubb were named Pro Bowlers last month.