Throughout the Browns' search for a new head coach,_ClevelandBrowns.com_will break down the candidates after their interview with the team is complete. It continues today with a look at Kevin Stefanski, who took over as Minnesota's top play-caller in Week 15 of this past season.
1. Stefanski was a defensive back at Penn but has spent his entire coaching career on the offensive side of the ball. And he's weathered plenty of change along the way. After working closely with Brad Childress as his assistant from 2006-08, Stefanski was elevated to assistant quarterbacks coach in 2009, allowing him to work alongside quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers and veteran signal-caller Brett Favre. He maintained the position in 2010 and 2011 amid changes at head coach and quarterbacks coach. When Mike Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014, Stefanski transitioned to tight ends coach for two seasons and running backs coach for another before he was back with the quarterbacks in 2017. Despite a change at offensive coordinator from Pat Shurmur to John DeFilippo entering the 2018 season, Stefanski maintained his position before eventually taking over for DeFilippo, who was fired after the team's Week 14 loss to the Seahawks.
2. The Vikings found immediate success with Stefanski calling plays, piling up 418 yards of offense and a season-high 41 points in a rout of the Miami Dolphins. Before that game, Minnesota cleared 100 rushing yards just once in the past seven weeks but finished with a season-high 220 against the Dolphins. Minnesota had another solid offensive showing the next week against the Lions, scoring 27 points and compiling 340 yards of offense before stumbling in the season finale against the Bears. "He's a big-time believer in it being about the players, not the plays," tight end Kyle Rudolph told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. "He told me at one point during the game last week that he can call whatever he wants because he has the confidence that we're going to go out and execute. That's what we've talked about all along. It's not about the plays being called. It's about the players going out and execute the plays that are being called."
3. Stefanski was so valued by the Vikings that he was blocked from interviewing with the Giants last offseason. Stefanski would have interviewed to be offensive coordinator for Shurmur, who was tapped as the Giants' head coach shortly after Minnesota's run to the 2018 NFC Championship came to an end. "I think Kevin is a tremendous coach and obviously the Vikings feel the same way," Shurmur told reporters. "I think he has a bright future. He's a good man and the Vikings did a good thing by keeping him — for the Vikings. I'm hopeful they have a great year as well."
4. Perhaps Stefanski's best work came in 2017, when the Vikings were forced to go to their backup, Case Keenum, early in the season after starter Sam Bradford went down with an injury. Keenum, a journeyman backup who had completed 58 percent of his passes and amassed a record of 9-15 at his previous stops, went on to complete nearly 68 percent of his throws with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions while leading the Vikings to a record of 11-3. "The tough part with quarterbacks is that the circumstances matter," Stefanski told The Ringer. "Sometimes, you're dealing with some injuries up front or an injury to a wide receiver, and it manifests itself into a tough offense. I think you saw the elements of Case's game that merited a look. He has a ton of redeemable qualities."
5. Stefanski grew up in a basketball family, and his father, Ed, has been an NBA executive for the better part of two decades. Kevin, though, never made it past the JV and instead focused on football, according to a Twin Cities Pioneer Press feature. "My (three) brothers and I played basketball growing up, but at least for me, football became something I was much better at than I was at basketball," Stefanski told the newspaper. "So I fell in love with the game way back when." Ed Stefanski was a 10th round pick by the Philadelphia 76ers and has held a variety of executive roles within the league, including general manager of the New Jersey Nets. He's currently a senior adviser with the Detroit Pistons.