PFT's 2023 NFL coach of the year: Kevin Stefanski

In past years, we've determined our awards with input from the writers and then, in the end, yours truly would make the final call, even if it went against the weight of the other contributors to PFT. This year, I respected the process of a full vote of all five PFT writers, even if it went against my own assessment.

For most awards, it didn't matter. For this one — and without disclosing my own personal AP awards ballot as to coach of the year — I'll just say it might have.

Regardless, the internal voting process resulted in Browns coach Kevin Stefanski narrowly surpassing Texans coach DeMeco Ryans for PFT coach of the year.

A strong case could be made for either coach. Ryans did the unthinkable, taking a team no one truly believed would make it to the playoffs and winning the AFC South. Stefanski's Browns entered 2023 as a wild card, and Stefanski led them through a wild ride to the No. 5 seed.

The Browns had five different starting quarterbacks this season. They lost quarterback Deshaun Watson at first for a few games and then, after a stirring win at Baltimore, for the rest of the season, with a shoulder injury. On November 20, they signed Joe Flacco to the practice squad — and he led the Browns to 11 wins, fueling the passing game that became more important after the Week 2 torn ACL suffered by running back Nick Chubb.

It helped to have a dominant defense, led by veteran coordinator Jim Schwartz. It was obvious from Week 1 that the defense would be dominant. And it is. And Stefanski hired him.

Along the way, the Browns beat the Texans in Houston. But the Texans didn't have quarterback C.J. Stroud for the game. On Saturday, when Cleveland returns to Houston for a wild-card game, Stroud will play. The outcome could be different.

Based on the regular season alone, however, Stefanski got just enough support to win the award, with Ryans the clear No. 2.

Others who received votes include 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, Lions coach Dan Campbell, Bills coach Sean McDermott, Rams coach Sean McVay, and Packers coach Matt LaFleur.