The Browns have decided on their next head coach by hiring Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings this year and had been with the Vikings coaching staff since 2006. In his time there he had been an assistant, TE coach, RB coach, QB Coach, and offensive coordinator. He helped the Vikings improve their offense from 2018 in 2019 and had his offense as the 6th best rushing offense in the league. With the Vikings Stefanski ran a zone-blocking scheme that took the strengths of the line and helped them to get better as the season went along. It also helped that the Vikings had Dalvin Cook running the ball for them. Now that Stefanski has moved to the Browns it will be interesting to see what they will look like in 2020.
Although the Browns are in the offseason right now and most of the players are away from the team currently enjoying some time away from football, Stefanski has made sure to reach out to his players. He spoke with Baker Mayfield and both of them expressed their optimism for next season. Baker had a poor year after he had a promising rookie season. He had turn over issues and just did not look comfortable in the offense. After the last game of the season, he admitted that the season did not go well and that he planned to spend time on the field and in the film room improving his game for the 2020 season. There were a lot of factors that played into the Mayfield’s performance in 2019, but not all of them were under his control. For now, it appears he is committed to getting better and is looking forward to working with Stefanski. If Stefanski does bring in his zone running scheme to the Browns this could mean great things for the Browns offense, especially Baker. I think that he is going to work with the GM, once one is hired, and work to get the personnel that are going to work for him the best. IF you look at the game film one of the best things that you could see in Stefanski’s offense in Minnesota this year was that they wanted to establish the run and their identity. This was practiced and coached hard. It showed on the field with how successful they were in running the ball, but also in the wrinkles they added to the offense. The Vikings were able to make a lot of different formations that would normally run out of look the same for passing situations which put the pressure on defenses. Bringing this type of scheme to Cleveland could help Baker. If the Browns can run a similar style offense Baker could find himself in a really good situation. Baker is going to have put in work getting under center in this offense and I think he is up for the task. If the Browns can get this system down, Baker being able to move the pocket and get the play-action game going could be huge for his numbers in 2020.
Speaking of getting the running game going, the Browns have two great options in their backfield in Chubb and Hunt. In 2019 Chubb was the second leading rusher with just shy of 1500 yards on the ground. Hunt was able to be extremely productive in the 8 games that he played and ended up as the Browns 3rd leading receiver. Having both options in the backfield heading into 2020 would be a great leg up for the Browns. With Stefanski wanting to establish the run and Chubb already being the second-highest rusher in 2019 I could see the Browns being one of the run heaviest teams in the league especially since Minnesota was the 5th run-heavy team this year. If they can split the load between both backs in this offense, they could find great success. If the Browns can open up play-action and get their passing game going, they could find a lot of space to be successful.
The passing game is the last piece of the offense that the Browns will have to figure out. The top two pass catchers from last year are both top tier talents in OBJ and Jarvis Landry. OBJ was a let down for the Browns and fantasy managers this season. There was a lot of hype coming into this season that the Browns were going to be a very effective offense with Mayfield’s rookie season as a passer, and the addition of OBJ. OBJ seemed sluggish and was not at the level everyone expected, but the reason for this was revealed toward the end of the season when it was discovered that he had an abdomen injury that was causing him some discomfort. This was a factor in the passing game under-performing, but it was not the only deficiency. There were questions about the play-calling on offense, Baker was not getting the blocking that he needed, and he was not getting effective coaching. Stefanski should be able to address all of these issues heading into 2020. He was a QB coach in Minnesota when Case Keenum was the QB and helped to develop Keenum in their offense. During that season the Vikings pass efficiency was top 10 and Keenum had a great statistical season including a 67.6% completion rate. If Stefanski can work with Mayfield and improve his accuracy he could get back to performing at a high level. The scheme he will be bringing into Cleveland should help the line with protecting Mayfield, along with moving him out of the pocket on designed rollouts that could help him avoid making mistakes that cost the Browns this year. With Landry and a healthy OBJ, the Browns passing game could be very good in 2020, and in addition to this if the Browns can have a healthy TE for the majority of the season it could also help build the chemistry of the team going forward.
Even at the start of 2019, the Browns were playing down the media hype around their team. Heading into 2020 the mood will most likely be the same. There may be some hype around having a fully healthy offense and the fact that Stefanski led one of the best offenses in 2019, but there are always growing pains. This is especially true when you are changing the scheme and transitioning to a new coaching staff. When the Browns hire a new GM this offseason, they will have to work closely with Stefanski to start building toward their goal. The Browns may not be the best team next year, but they have a great chance to be the most improved team in 2020.