Drew Petzing's offseason so far has been all about change.
The first big change was his role — Petzing transitioned to the quarterbacks coach at the beginning of the offseason after spending the last two years as the tight ends coach. Head coach Kevin Stefanski believes his knowledge of the playbook and relationship with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt would help him lead the most important position of the offense.
The second big change was who would be in the room with him.
Cleveland acquired three-time Pro Bowl QB Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Texans on March 20. Watson, the 12th overall pick of the 2017 draft, led the NFL in passing yards in 2020 and has recorded the highest completion percentage in NFL history (67.8 percent) among all players with at least 1,500 passing attempts.
The changes for Petzing might not be over yet as the Browns wait and see what parts of the offensive playbook they'll have to tweak to maximize the talents of their new quarterback, but there's no question that Petzing has what he needs to succeed as a coach in his third season in Cleveland and first in the QB room.
"I'm extremely excited," he said. "I think anytime you can get a player of that talent level and that type of teammate, just knowing what (Watson) has been able to accomplish in this league, we're very excited to bring him here to Cleveland, put him in this offense and adapt a little to him and go out and play at a high level."
"Adapt" is a word that will be commonly used throughout the offseason and into training camp as the Browns find out how they can mold their playbook around Watson's strengths. In addition to his strong and accurate arm, Watson carries an excellent scrambling ability that can allow for more creativity in play calls and help the offense find big gains even when the overall execution isn't perfect.
It also makes it easy for Watson to fit into numerous systems and play just about every type of role possible for a quarterback. But Petzing, Stefanski and the offensive coaches are taking a patient approach to see what they'll change from their previous playbook, which is predicated around the wide-zone scheme and relies primarily on play-action passes, to better fit Watson and elevate the Browns' offense to what they believe can become one of the top units in the league.
"Our goal is always to play to that player's strengths," Petzing said. "The nice part is that it is very vast (with Watson), so I think the thing that's going to be hard for us is to make sure we don't do too much. We know he can excel in every area, but where is he exceptional, and where does that align with our roster when we hit Week 1?
"We need to be a week-to-week team based on who we're playing, who's healthy and who's playing at a high level so we can highlight those players, and certainly that starting point is always going to run through the quarterback."
In addition to Watson, the Browns also added a new backup QB in Jacoby Brissett, a six-year veteran who has started 37 games for three teams and has experience in a wide variety of offensive systems. He has a career 83.0 passer rating and has thrown 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
"He's played at a high level in a lot of different systems," Petzing said. "He's been in the pro style under center, he's been in the gun, he's been in the spread and he's started games in this league. From a knowledge, experience and ability standpoint, he gives us a lot of that freedom to say, 'Hey, we know you can do it all, and when you're back there, we're going to do what you can do best.'"
Petzing was picked by Stefanski to lead the group because of his familiarity with how Stefanski prefers to operate the QB position — he was his assistant when Stefanski was the QB coach for the Vikings in 2018, and he's been on the same coaching staff with Stefanski since 2014.
As a tight ends coach with the Browns, Petzing also had to memorize every corner of the playbook because of how common tight ends were used in the offense. The Browns deployed three-tight end formations on 17 percent of their offensive plays last season, more than any team in the league.
All of that knowledge has helped Petzing feel on pace to lead a new position group where abundant changes have taken place. Petzing coaching the room is one of them, too, but he has all the tools and experience necessary to help the room thrive.
"(I'm bringing) a renewed focus where you can have another set of eyes in the room and be able to critique and coach and make sure they're prepared," Petzing said. "I'm going to make sure that they have the resources they need to make sure they're successful and that we can see that growth."