There's a purpose behind the location of Bill Callahan's office in Berea. The Browns' new offensive line coach shares a wall with Kevin Stefanski, who is embarking on his first season as a head coach.
Callahan, entering his 45th year of coaching (22nd in the NFL), has been in Stefanski's position before, both at the college and professional level. Just last year, he served as the interim head coach of the Washington Redskins, filling that role for the final 11 games of the 2019 season. That kind of experience was deemed invaluable to Stefanski as he continues to shape his coaching staff.
"I can't do this thing alone," Stefanski said. "I know that, so I need really good people around me. To have somebody in the office next to me who's been a head coach in college, a head coach in the pros, has seen a lot of the obstacles that come up in the course of a day for a head coach is huge. I can pop in next door and ask him his opinion on a bunch of things and that can inform my decisions moving forward on things big and small."
Callahan said he relishes the opportunity to serve as a "sounding board" for Stefanski, a coach he's admired from afar who shares a number of mutual friends and acquaintances with Callahan, including former Vikings head coach Brad Childress.
Childress and Callahan simultaneously got their coaching careers off the ground at the University of Illinois in the early 1980s. Decades later, Childress gave Stefanski his first full-time opportunity in the NFL, making him the assistant to the head coach.
"It's so interesting how this developed," said Callahan, who was the head coach with the Oakland Raiders from 2002-03 and the University of Nebraska from 2004-07. "I can see how Brad hired Kevin and wanted him to be a part of the organization when he was with the Vikings. I understand how his role played out and what he did with that opportunity. He's only grown and excelled in that. I'm just very fortunate to be a part of it and those acquaintances and relationships that coaches need at times when you're trying to help somebody."
A smile crosses Callahan's face when he's asked about his biggest responsibility with the Browns.
The former quarterback at Illinois Benedictine College has coached a variety of position groups and players throughout his career, but none has been more impactful toward his rise up the ranks than the work he's done with offensive linemen. Dating back to 1995, when he took the reins as the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive line coach, Callahan has been an offensive line coach for a combined 15 years with four different NFL teams (Eagles, Jets, Cowboys, Redskins). In that time, he's helped 12 players combine for 29 Pro Bowl selections.
"I love everything about it," Callahan said. "I love the players, and they're unique because they're so selfless. They're like a team within a team. Everything that goes on is an extension of everybody, so nothing good can happen unless they perform well. There's a burden. There's a challenge. There's a responsibility to do great things. There's the fun of bringing and developing a lineman from the time that he's a young player through his infancy in the NFL to helping them achieve a Pro Bowl status … It's great to see that type of development in a player. That's what I enjoy coaching the most. To see that improvement. To see guys have success."
From a schematic standpoint, Callahan has seen it all in his 45 years of coaching, so adapting to what the Browns plan to install won't be anything he hasn't seen before. The one constant has been his ability to "match the scheme to his personnel," Stefanski said.
"I've always thought the world of him as a coach. His reputation precedes him," Stefanski said. "He coaches his guys hard, he's fair, he's a disciplinarian, he's a teacher. I think he's able to do all those things and he's a man of high, high integrity."
If the recommendations he received from those close to Stefanski were what lured Callahan to Cleveland, it was the proud history of the Browns franchise that sealed the deal.
"The Cleveland Browns organization historically is one of the richest in football. The tradition and what it stands for, it means a lot to me," Callahan said. "Growing up as a coach, I was a West Coast Offense advocate and read all the information and stories about Paul Brown and Bill Walsh and how it arrived with Cleveland. That was always appealing to me and interesting as well and helped me as a coach.
"I was in Philadelphia when I first came into the league. There was a general manager there by the name of John Wooten. He'd shared a lot of his thoughts and feelings about the organization and his playing days here in Cleveland. It resonated with me on a lot of different levels."
Bill Callahan's Coaching Background:
1978: Oak Lawn High School, assistant coach
1979: De La Salle High School, assistant coach
1980-81: University of Illinois, associate coach
1982-83: University of Illinois, special teams/tight ends coach
1984-85: University of Illinois, offensive line coach
1986: University of Illinois, quarterbacks coach
1987-88: Northern Arizona University, offensive line coach
1989: Southern Illinois University, offensive coordinator
1990-94: University of Wisconsin, offensive line coach
1995-97: Philadelphia Eagles, offensive line coach
1998: Oakland Raiders, offensive coordinator/tight ends coach
1999-2001: Oakland Raiders, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach
2002-03: Oakland Raiders, head coach
2004-07: University of Nebraska, head coach
2008-11: New York Jets, assistant head coach/offensive line coach
2012-14: Dallas Cowboys, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach
2015-16: Washington Redskins, offensive line coach
2017-19: Washington Redskins, assistant head coach/offensive line coach
2019: Washington Redskins, interim head coach (final 11 games)
2020-: Cleveland Browns, offensive line coach