Kevin Stefanski’s ‘next-man-up’ philosophy stays with Browns even when he can’t be there


CLEVELAND (WJW)— Everything about 2020 was unpredictable. That includes the NFL season.

Team meetings held via Zoom, limited training camp and no preseason. Now, imagine being a first-year head coach.

But in all the chaos, Kevin Stefanski appeared to set the standard for composure and consistency; Two things long lacking in the Cleveland Browns organization.

His even temperament continued while he was forced to watch his team in the playoffs from his basement after he tested positive for COVID-19. Stefanski said he did a lot of pacing as he watched Sunday night’s game.

While he might have been screaming on the inside, his calm and subtle confidence didn’t waiver during interviews leading up to the big game. It’s that mentality that stayed with his team even when he couldn’t be there.

“Like Stefanski has always said to us, you do not rise to the occasion; you fall to the level of your preparation. The way we have prepared and gotten ourselves mentally ready, whether it is through Zoom or just working through it ourselves preparing at home physically on our own, it is just how you how you treat yourself and how you prepare as a pro,” defensive end Myles Garrett said last week.

The preparation paid off. Despite few practices and missing starters, the Browns beat the Steelers for their first playoff win since Jan. 1, 1995.

“The foundation has been set. We all know it is Kevin’s team,” said Mike Priefer, special teams coordinator and acting head coach for the victory over Pittsburgh.

Since the start of the season, Stefanski has emphasized a “next-man-up” philosophy, which his players have taken to heart.

“It calls on guys to step up and play in roles that they may have not anticipated playing in. It calls on other guys to make more plays. Obviously in these situations, it is always a team game and it is a team sport, so it is going to take everybody to win these types of games and you need everybody,” wide receiver Jarvis Landy said last week.

But just like he did all season, Stefanski, one of the favorites to win NFL coach of the year, shifted the focus to the team.

“They have been put in these positions early and often this season. It is something we have talked about, but you do not often speak things into existence. I just give credit to the players in how they have responded. They have been about the doing,” Stefanski said.

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