Opinion: Furor over Browns Hiring Kevin Stefanski has a Familiar Feeling
Written by Sean Fitzgerald on January 12, 2020
Photo Credit: fox8.com
In case you’re a Cleveland Browns fan whose head has been buried in the sand, the team decided to hire Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski as their next head coach.
Stefanski did a good job with Kirk Cousins and the plethora of weapons the Vikings offense had, beating the New Orleans Saints in a huge upset during wild card weekend before running into the brick wall known as the San Francisco 49ers defense in the divisional round.
The very same 49ers defense that obliterated the Browns, Packers, and several other NFL squads to earn the NFC’s No. 1 Seed. Only two teams have scored more than 30 points against Robert Saleh’s defense: The Saints and Rams, who both lost.
While Jimmy Haslam said that experience would matter in this search, that’s not necessarily what he got in Stefanski.
However, it’s good to keep in mind Stefanski was the runner-up last year to Freddie Kitchens and the Browns brass was “wowed” by a guy who in the last coaching cycle only had three games experience as an offensive coordinator.
With Paul DePodesta having a bigger say this time around and bringing in his guy, the Browns may achieve the “organizational unity” they have been looking for during this search.
But the reactions I have seen with the new hire compared to past hirings on social media with Hue Jackson and Kitchens showed anger and apathy among the fanbase.
One fan even called into 92.3 The Fan to renounce his Browns fandom over this hire. Yes, that actually happened and I listened to the caller over the radio.
Yet the furor over all of this has a familiar feel to it that gives me a reason to be hopeful.
It all goes back to the 2018 NFL Draft when fans were convinced that the team would draft Sam Darnold and Bradley Chubb at No. 1 and No. 4 respectively.
Instead, they picked Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward. And when that happened, the furor and apathy closely mirrored what we’ve seen to the Stefanski pick.
I remember being around folks that night on Kent’s campus and seeing the reaction unfold on Twitter after the picks on draft night, with fans and pundits panning the Browns two first-round selections.
The backlash had a weird feeling to it in my mind. I hadn’t seen this kind of fan reaction before, which brought me hope and a belief that the Browns might have made the right call.
While Mayfield took a step back in 2019, he was the runner-up offensive rookie of the year, and he can definitely improve with the amount of talent we saw his rookie year.
Denzel Ward ended up going to the Pro-Bowl his rookie year, which he followed up with a pretty solid 2019 campaign when healthy.
Fast forward to today, with many fans opposed to the Stefanski pick, that familiar groundswell of hope sprung up again, that the Browns may have finally gotten the right guy, just like when they picked Baker and Ward.
Even if it’s not the sexiest hire, the Browns committed to a process and stuck to it.
With everything I’ve seen today, I’m more inclined to believe that my current gut feeling is right and the Browns will usher in an era of relevance for the first time since coming back in 1999.
And who knows? I may end up being totally wrong about everything. That’s why you play the games, and why Stefanski deserves a chance to coach the team to find out if he’s the right coach for the Cleveland Browns.
Sean Fitzgerald is a member of the Black Squirrel Radio Sports Department and a Sports Coordinator. He co-hosts Pass the Mic Sports Talk. Follow him on Twitter @fitzonsportsbsr for insights and occasional livestreams.