As Browns fans, we’ve been through it all. Years of losing, constant dysfunction, power struggles between the front office and coaching staff. The list goes on and on. After a disappointing 2019 season, the Browns (once again) blew it all up by firing Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey. A lot of fans, including myself, thought “oh no, here we go again…” We’ve all seen this movie before.
What happened after was something that we haven’t really seen as fans since 1999. The Haslams and Paul DePodesta took their time doing a coaching search. Something about the process simply felt different. By the end of it, Kevin Stefanski was named the head coach. Every move since his hiring has….. made complete sense? Feels weird to type. Oftentimes in the past, the guys in charge have made questionable decisions when hiring coaches, player personnel, and signing free agents. So why is this year different?
In simple terms, the Browns appear to have full alignment from top to bottom for the first time in years, maybe even since 1999. Kevin Stefanski, Andrew Berry, and Paul DePodesta share a common vision of success based on a combination of analytics and true football assessments. What they’ve done so far in free agency speaks volumes to the direction this team is going. Day one, they sign Austin Hooper, Jack Conklin, and Case Keenum. This says that they 100% believe in Baker Mayfield and they want to help him out tremendously. There isn’t a power struggle between GM and Head Coach that we’ve seen in the past. It’s also refreshing to hear Stefanski say that he’s open to letting Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt call the plays. For the past 3 years, we’ve had to hear Hue Jackson and Freddie Kitchens say “I’m the head coach, I’m calling the plays”, even though they were below average/poor at it. There appears to be little ego with Stefanski and that is so important in this business. He wants to do what’s best for the team.
If you take a look at the defensive side of the ball, what they’re doing is smart as well. Most of the guys they’ve signed are all on one-year deals, meaning they can prove they’re worth a long contract by balling out this fall, and it also means that this year’s draft is going to be defense-heavy. The bigger contracts that players have signed are also front-heavy in terms of money, meaning that in a few years when Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield need new contracts, the cash will be there. Once again, full alignment from top to bottom has helped these smart decisions happen.
The catch to all this is that we really won’t know how well the new coaching staff and front office have done until actual football is played this fall. We’ve been the “offseason champs” before and it didn’t translate onto the field. Stefanski and company still have a lot to prove, but they are off to a great start. With more free agents to sign and prospects to draft, the holes on the team should continue to get filled with young talent. Personally, I’m hoping they draft (OT) Andrew Thomas with pick 10, (S) Antoine Winfield Jr, and (LB) Malik Harrison in the first 3 rounds.
Time will tell, but 2020 could be the comeback year for Baker Mayfield and the Browns. We have hope!