Kevin Stefanski turned the Cleveland Browns into a playoff team.
Build the man a statue.
Jokes aside, Stefanski showed up in 2020 and totally changed the culture of the franchise after a disastrous two-decade run of futility.
Oh, he also got the Browns into the playoffs and the structure he put in place was strong enough to pick up a postseason win even though the head coach had to watch from his basement because of COVID-19.
Stefanski is the coach the Browns have been searching for since 1999 and he rightfully received The Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year Award during the NFL Honors presentation Saturday night.
First-year Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was voted The Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year after leading Cleveland to its first playoff appearance since 2002.
The latest on the awards >> https://t.co/v7rWL9dXwS pic.twitter.com/jYRU5Q8ypZ
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) February 7, 2021
Was there really any other choice?
Stefanski Was the Only Real Choice
It is no secret that anytime someone wins an award, there will be backlash from the supporters of those who finished behind the winner.
Some thought Brian Flores deserved to win, while others may have gone with Sean McDermott.
But fans in Cleveland knew Stefanski was the obvious frontrunner.
The first-year head coach showed up during the most unique season in NFL history.
Teams were practicing remotely much of the year and that usually would have tanked past coaches.
But not this guy.
"My name may be on this award but I think this speaks to the amazing support I get day in and day out from my coaching staff with the Cleveland Browns."
📺: #NFLHonors on CBS pic.twitter.com/Mp4hS0F9YK
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) February 7, 2021
Stefanski installed his system and it appears the entire roster bought in right away.
The Browns opened up the season with a disastrous blowout and quickly rebounded with four straight wins.
The new head coach never let his team panic and his 11 wins marked the most any Browns coach had in a single season since Bill Belichick won 11 games in 1994.
That was also the last time the Browns won a playoff game.
Stefanski did the impossible and deserved this award.
Looking at the Competition
Both McDermott and Flores finished behind Stefanski in the voting.
McDermott also had an amazing season leading the Buffalo Bills to a 13-3 finish and got his team into the AFC Championship Game.
Yes, the Bills being Super Bowl contenders is a real thing again.
But this was McDermott’s fourth season in Buffalo and the team had gone 10-6 in 2019.
What he did was special, however, the Bills lived up to realistic expectations in 2020 after years of developing their core.
This was less of a 2020 turnaround and more of an example of how the Bills are set up for sustained success.
Flores is also a legitimate contender after leading the Miami Dolphins to a 10-6 record.
He showed up in 2019 and managed to lead a tanking Dolphins team to a 5-11 record.
Flores then was able to create a system where Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa could be used interchangeably without a disruption to the offense or the locker room.
What Flores did was impressive and it was fitting for him to be a contender.
Getting the Browns back into the playoffs is simply far more impressive and Stefanski did also finish with a better record.
The Browns went from having the worst possible coaches to having an award-winning leader on the sidelines.
Now the hope is that Stefanski isn’t a one-hit wonder.
The early results seem to indicate that won’t be the case.
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