After a year filled with on-field adversity, head coach Kevin Stefanski closed out the 2023 season with an accolade of his own.
Stefanski was named the AP Coach of the Year at NFL Honors on Thursday. He was one of five finalists nominated for the award.
"We are so lucky to have Kevin as a leader of our organization," Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry said. "What he's been able to navigate throughout the first four years here has been nothing short of remarkable. Battling all the adversity that we had this season and guiding us to another playoff appearance is just phenomenal and we're so lucky to have Kevin as a steward of our program the last four years and really into the foreseeable future."
This is the second Coach of the Year award for Stefanski in his first four years as a head coach.
The 2023 season had its trials and tribulations as they dealt with a number of injuries to starters and key players. They lost T Jack Conklin to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1, then star running back Nick Chubb in Week 2 for the year. They had three tackles deal with season-ending injuries and had key defensive players miss time throughout the season. They started five different quarterbacks over the course of the season, as Deshaun Watson dealt with injuries, started rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker, then signed Joe Flacco in the latter half of the season to lead them to the playoffs.
And yet, the Browns finished the 2023 season 11-6 with their first playoff berth since 2020. The 11 regular season wins tied for the second-most in team history, trailing just the 1986 team's 12 wins. They also finished 8-1 at home for the 2023 season, which set a team record for wins at home. The Browns also had seven players selected to the Pro Bowl this season, which the was highest for the club since sending eight in 1988.
While the Wild Card round came to a disappointing end with the loss to the Texans, the Browns handled the adversity they were dealt and embodied their next man up mentality throughout the season. And at the helm of the team to lead them through it all was Stefanski.
"I'm honored and I could not do this thing by myself," Stefanski said. "I get incredible support from everyone in this building. Our coaches, our players, our staff. I'm so lucky. I am so blessed. I could not do this thing by myself. And then outside this building with the fans. We have the best fans in the National Football League, the best fans in the world. The Browns Backers around the world and here in Northeast Ohio, I can't tell you how appreciative I am of the support they give this football team. We feed off that energy and we really want to give them a team that they're proud of."
His coaching staff felt his steadying hand and leadership throughout the 2023 season. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz believed that Stefanksi earned the Coach of the Year honor.
"A head coach should be a steadying influence in a team, and I don't think anybody exemplifies that better than Kevin," Schwartz said on Jan. 4. "Good coaches can round out the roller coaster nature, which is the NFL, right? You're going to have highs. You're going to have lows over the course of the season. You want to be the person that can level out those. Almost like a good hedge fund manager. And I think Kevin—he's awesome to work for.
"I have a ton of respect for him," Schwartz continued. "And we've had a couple spots this year where we haven't played great, but we've always been able to bounce back. And I think players take a lot of confidence in Kevin's confidence and his ability to handle all these different situations. A lot's been made of the quarterback position, but you can go down a list of a lot of other situations, particularly injuries, that have come and found ways to still be successful and have the record that we have. It's really been impressive."