Kevin Stefanski won the NFL’s 2023 Coach of the Year Award for the way he navigated through adversity.
His leadership helped the 11-6 Cleveland Browns reach the Wild Card round despite multiple injuries.
Cleveland is the first team ever to make the playoffs without their starting tackles, quarterback, and running back.
But Stefanski was quick to give all the credit to the players and his coaching staff, as he told Rich Eisen this week:
On “The Rich Eisen Show”, the pundit asked Stefanski how he kept the team together and winning.
Stefanski reiterated his “1-0 each week” theory, and preparing for games with players available at that point.
To his credit, the coach downplayed the age-old “next man up” mantra.
He says the coaching staff’s task is to keep that next man ready, as opposed to having to get ready.
“The number three guy can become the number one guy pretty quickly in the NFL,” Stefanski said.
He spoke about how there are no redshirt seasons, something that rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson learned.
Perhaps the biggest blemish on Cleveland’s season was DTR’s admitted lack of preparation for his first NFL start.
Despite Deshaun Watson’s inability to throw all week, the rookie and the coach assumed the starter would play.
But Stefanski coaxed a win out of his rookie passer in Week 10, and DTR became one of four Browns quarterbacks with a victory this year.
Quarterback wasn’t the only position where backups took ownership on gameday.
It seemed like Stefanski could plug almost anybody in anywhere and keep the team competitive.
And that is how winning football teams are made.