For Tyler Tettleton and Jim Dray, it all started with a text message.
Tettleton, a former scouting assistant with the New York Jets, heard from quarterback Baker Mayfield. Dray, a former NFL tight end, received his text from head coach Freddie Kitchens. Both messages were about the same topic: Want to coach for the Browns?
That answer was an easy “Yes,” and now both are in their first seasons as offensive quality control coaches for the Browns and taking their first steps toward becoming a coordinator or coach in the NFL.
Tettleton’s and Dray’s responsibilities include the dirty work from a coaching staff. They make the playbook — literally — and draw up each route and blocking scheme. They also gather film from practice, digest opponent tape and ensure players’ positioning is perfect during plays in practice.
"We have to wear a lot of hats,” Tettleton said. “We're still coaches, but at the core of all of it, we're pretty much helping run the show and doing a lot of grunt work. It's been awesome.”
Check out photos as the team travels to Indianapolis to practice with and play the Colts in the preseason.
OK, let’s go back a bit. Why would Mayfield reach out to Tettleton, and why would the Browns be interested in hiring Tettleton as a coach?
Tettleton was a quarterback at Ohio University and is the Bobcats’ all-time leader with 9,125 passing yards and 67 touchdowns. After Ohio, Tettleton was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma and became close friends with Mayfield.
He was there when Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy — and the hearts of football fans across the country — before Mayfield became the Browns’ 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick, and he was also there in California when Mayfield married his wife, Emily, over the summer.
So, a Tettleton-Mayfield reunion in Cleveland made perfect sense. Browns’ quarterbacks coach Ryan Lindley wanted the Browns to hire Tettleton for his expertise and help Mayfield feel closer to the comfort he had at Oklahoma. The results have already been noticeable.
“Having Tyler and knowing kind of what Baker thinks, where we can go back if we want to do some things like they did at Oklahoma, Tyler can be a great reference for that,” Lindley said, “He’s been great for us in the QC (quality control) role.”
Dray had a reunion, too, but his was with his former coach with the Arizona Cardinals. Kitchens was Dray’s tight ends coach after the Cardinals drafted Dray in the seventh round of the 2010 draft, and they’ve kept in touch ever since.
Dray spent two of his eight NFL seasons with the Browns and retired as a player in 2017. He spent last year as an offensive assistant at his alma mater Stanford, and Kitchens wanted Dray to join his revamped coaching staff when he was promoted to head coach in January.
Dray knew he wanted to pursue coaching jobs in the NFL. He just didn’t think he’d receive the opportunity so soon.
“I couldn't be more aware of how lucky I am that I have this opportunity,” Dray said. “I don't know what was hoping to happen, but I certainly didn't see this happening, and I certainly didn't see it happening this quickly.”
Part of the duo’s job contains office work. They use Excel and Visio software to draw the routes and schemes offensive coordinator Todd Monken and Kitchens want players to follow. Tettleton mostly handles work associated with the passing game, while Dray handles efforts toward run and blocking schemes.
Tettleton is a bit more adept when it comes to computers. Perhaps that’s because Tettleton, 28, is a bit younger than Dray, 32, but don’t worry — Dray has it all figured out now.
“I never opened an Excel spreadsheet. I've never used Visio software programs. I never banged away on a keyboard for eight hours a day,” Dray said. “You better acquire those skills quickly. I was not very tech-savvy, but you were forced to become that very quickly if you want to keep your head above the water."
Tettleton’s adjustment has been a bit easier after possessing a bit more experience from the coaching side.
Right now, Tettleton doesn’t see any glaring concerns in Mayfield’s game. Any improvements Mayfield must make between now and Week 1 are small, and Mayfield didn’t show too many areas for improvement after his single drive against the Washington Redskins last Thursday when he went 5-for-6 for 77 yards and a touchdown.
“I think the way (Mayfield) carries himself within the locker room and the rapport he has with teammates is truly special,” Tettleton said. “He has the talent to be an MVP player in this league.”
Tettleton and Dray have enjoyed the vibe around the Browns, and who could blame them? If their hard work pays off, they’ll be a part of a team that changed the outlook of an organization faster than most people expected.
That would certainly accelerate their path toward a more prestigious coaching position in the NFL. They’re not in any hurry, though.
"That would be great if it ever works out that way,” Dray said, “but at this point, I'm trying to just soak everything up as much as possible."