Chad O'Shea and Kevin Stefanski first met in what O'Shea describes as "the underworld."
O'Shea and Stefanski arrived together in Minnesota in 2006 as assistants on Brad Childress' staff -- Stefanski the assistant to the head coach; O'Shea an offensive assistant. Long hours and long nights forged a bond the two have maintained through the years as they respectively rose the ranks to the positions they hold today.
It's why O'Shea, after serving as the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins last season, jumped at the opportunity to be the pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach on Stefanski's first staff in Cleveland.
"We were both in very entry-level positions. I would describe it as the underworld," O'Shea said. "I think that you learn the most about a person in not only their ability to do a certain job or task but you learn a lot about the person as far as how they relate to people and I think that's certainly one of Kevin's strengths. It was very clear to all of us that worked with him in those roles. It was a neat time for all of us because we were in entry-level positions and we were working extremely hard to try to reach our goals and it was a fun time."
Stefanski learned right away O'Shea, a former college quarterback and three-time Super Bowl champion, would not be outworked.
"He grinds on the tape, he spends a lot of time with his players on the nuances of the position. He's kind of like that proverbial gym rat that spends a ton of time with the game," Stefanski said. "That's the qualities I saw in him early on in his coaching career. Then he goes to New England and has a ton of success there. He's attained what we're looking to go get. He has this unique knowledge of a successful program, which I think is really enticing from my perspective."
O'Shea spent three seasons with the Vikings before joining the Patriots in 2009 as wide receivers coach on Bill Belichick's staff. Over 10 seasons with the Patriots, O'Shea won Super Bowls in 2015, 2017 and 2019, and the individual success of the players in his room played a big part.
He helped Wes Welker (three times), Julian Edelman (three times), Randy Moss and Brandin Cooks all surpass the 1,000 receiving yard mark. Edelman won Super Bowl MVP honors after recording 10 receptions for 141 yards in a 13-3 victory. Welker led the league in receptions in 2009 and 2011 and set franchise records for receptions (123 in 2009) and receiving yards (1,569 in 2011). In 2009, Moss tied for the NFL lead with 13 touchdowns, while Welker led the NFL in receptions (123) and the duo finished second (Welker 1,348) and tied for fifth (Moss 1,264) in the league in receiving yards.
"I think that the most important thing about the position that I coach is to really embrace the team concept and to understand that we're a part of something bigger," O'Shea said. "Regardless of the level of ability and talent and any position, the goal is that you're contributing to team success. I've always prided myself that that group has that standard of the team first and I look forward to coaching these guys and I've always had a lot of respect for some of the guys that I'll be coaching. I'm looking forward to it but certainly proud of some of the past accomplishments that was built on a team concept."
O'Shea received his first play-calling opportunity in 2019 with the Miami Dolphins, who thrived at the end of the season in the face of a number of roster constraints. The knowledge he acquired in that position will pay off in a big way, Stefanski said.
"I like to be surrounded by smart people and good coaches. Chad just spent a year calling it, so he understands the things that go along with play-calling and learned a ton of lessons he can help me with," Stefanski said. "Spending all that time in the New England program, having a ton of success. I think it's made him a better coach and I'm looking forward to drawing on some of those experiences with him to try and make our staff as complete as it can be."
O'Shea said he draws on two legendary coaches for inspiration when he goes into each NFL season. There's Belichick, of course, and there's also Dick Vermeil, who gave O'Shea his first NFL job when he brought him on with the Kansas City Chiefs as a volunteer special teams assistant in 2003. O'Shea ultimately worked three years with Vermeil, the final two coming as an assistant special teams/linebackers coach.
Belichick and Vermeil seemingly carry different personalities as head coaches, but O'Shea found a common thread between them that has guided him to this point. It's the "gym rat" mentality Stefanski loves about him.
"There are definitely a lot of similarities in their approach toward work," O'Shea said. "I think that's what's unique about being a coach is that you're going to have players that have different personalities, you're going to have coaches that you work with on the staff that are going to have different personalities but at the end of the day there are some core values that I think a lot of the great coaches and players share that I've been around.
"One of the greatest traits is work ethic and certainly both of those have been a great example to me in this profession of how I need to go about my business and work."
Chad O'Shea's Coaching Background:
1996: University of Houston, graduate assistant
1997: University of Houston, wide receivers coach
1998: University of Houston, tight ends/special teams coach
1999: University of Houston, tight ends/special teams/recruiting coordinator
2000-02: Southern Mississippi, special teams/recruiting coordinator
2003: Kansas City Chiefs, volunteer assistant special teams
2004-05: Kansas City Chiefs, assistant special teams/linebackers coach
2006-08: Minnesota Vikings, offensive assistant/wide receivers coach
2009-18: New England Patriots, wide receivers coach
2019: Miami Dolphins, offensive coordinator
2020-: Cleveland Browns, passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach