Kevin Stefanski closing in on top ten in head coach rankings

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The Cleveland Browns hired Kevin Stefanski after he had just over a year of experience as an offensive coordinator. Concern was heavy given that the team hired Stefanski before hiring a general manager.

Looking back, Paul DePodesta wanted to hire Stefanski instead of Freddie Kitchens despite Stefanski only having four games of calling plays and the team’s success under Kitchens as coordinator.

Fast forward a year and the concern has died off completely. Stefanski not only navigated Cleveland to a winning record with sound coaching decisions but did so among the difficulty of the COVID-19 limitations that hit the team.

With only seven head coaches having been hired for their positions before 2017, turnover is great there in the NFL. With that in mind, it can be hard to properly judge a coach after just one season. How does the team do when opponents have a year to prepare for them? What adjustments does the coach make to those adjustments? How does the coach adapt to an ever-changing roster due to free agency?

Stefanski has jumped over his first hurdle, it was a mighty big one, and now has to prove himself with a larger sample size. Despite that limited sample size, a new set of rankings placed him near the top ten among head coaches in the NFL:

12. Kevin Stefanski, Browns
Trending: Upward
Staff strength: 8.5

Stefanski was long held as the object of Browns chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta’s coaching affection. Cleveland wanted analytically-minded and forward-thinking staff, which complemented Stefanski and his offensive system perfectly. Alongside general manager Andrew Berry, the pair has built a contender in a division that typically swallows and discards middle-tier clubs like Cleveland, making a bad franchise seem far worse than it is. Last year, the Browns were top five in all major rushing categories, possessed the ball longer than all but two teams in the NFL and put developing quarterback Baker Mayfield in a position to eliminate some of the mistakes that arose during the puzzling Freddie Kitchens era. This earned Stefanski a Coach of the Year award, and a well-deserved one given how contested the field was.

Due to the strength in the top ten, many of which are the coaches that have been in their positions before 2017, Stefanski may have a hard time cracking the top five in the next couple of seasons. A Super Bowl appearance might get him up there but, at that point, where he “ranks” will be low on the interest list.

The Browns seem to have made the right move in hiring Stefanski as the head coach and Andrew Berry then as the general manager. Now, the duo needs to prove it year after year.