T.C. McCartney knew he had coaching in his blood, and he's embraced it from the very beginning. Even when he played at LSU, McCartney prepared for what he knew lied ahead.
"I knew I was going to coach. I knew I wasn't going to play in the NFL," McCartney said. "It kind of influenced how I learned things. I always looked at it from a coach's perspective because that's how I grew up. All those years playing, I think I saw it a little bit differently than the guys I played with."
McCartney called his shot and went straight into coaching after his playing days came to an end. Now a decade removed from his final game at LSU, he enters his 10th year of coaching as an offensive assistant with the Browns.
McCartney, who comes to Cleveland after serving as the quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos, got his start in the NFL with the Browns in 2014 as an offensive assistant under Kyle Shanahan.
"T.C. is a great young coach, has an amazing story," Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think he's seen a lot in the NFL for a young man. I think his knowledge of the offensive game is something we're really looking forward to add to our group."
McCartney will work closely with newly hired offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt as the 2020 Browns offense takes shape.
"I think it's always fun to be able to work for somebody who played the position and played a high level and was coaching the position a long time and coached really good players," McCartney said. "I'm excited to learn everything that he's done and everything that he knows."
McCartney is the grandson of legendary Colorado University coach Bill McCartney, who won three Big Eight titles and retired as the winningest coach in the program's history. His uncle, Tom McCartney, was his coach at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. And his father, Sal Aunese, was a quarterback at Colorado who passed away after a battle with stomach cancer during his junior season.
McCartney wore the same No. 8 jersey as Aunese during his playing days at LSU.
"I don't know any different. I always wanted to be just like my grandpa," McCartney said. "I was very young when he was coaching so my image of him is most like my uncle. Between those two, those are definitely the people who I wanted to be like growing up as a coach and a person."
McCartney spent his first three years of coaching as a graduate assistant at LSU (2011) and Colorado (2012-13) before landing a job with the Browns. McCartney helped install an offense that began the season as one of the league's best rushing attacks and served as the backbone of the team's 7-4 start before dropping back to the middle of the pack following C Alex Mack's season-ending injury.
McCartney reunited with Shanahan in San Francisco for the 2017-18 seasons as an offensive assistant/quality control coach. During that stretch, the 49ers ranked among the league leaders in passing offense and recorded 113 rushes of 10-plus yards, fifth-most in the NFL during that span.
"I've picked up a lot from working with Kyle. The first time I worked with him was here in Cleveland, it took about 30 seconds in that first meeting to realize that he was the real deal," McCartney said. "Ever since then, I've tried to soak up as much as I can schematically and with him as a teacher and him leading a room and a team. He's very good at it and I'm appreciative that I got to work for him."
As the Broncos quarterbacks coach this past season, McCartney began the season with veteran Joe Flacco at the helm but was ultimately tasked with preparing three different players to start games, two of whom (Brandon Allen, Drew Lock) were seeing their first NFL action. Both Lock and Allen scored victories in their respective debuts, and Lock, a second-round rookie, closed out the season with a 4-1 record while throwing for 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
"We had three starters, ranging from Joe who was older than me to Brandon who had some experience in the NFL to Drew who was a rookie. All of those experiences are different," McCartney said. "You've got to coach them differently and it was good for me to be able to go through the different levels and all three in one year. It was a good experience."
McCartney grew up watching Eric Bieniemy as a player for his grandfather and then coached for him at Colorado when Bieniemy was the Buffaloes' offensive coordinator. Bieniemy, now the offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl LIV champion Kansas City Chiefs who coached alongside Stefanski in Minnesota from 2006-10, passed along the "highest endorsement" for McCartney while he interviewed for his new position with the Browns.
"That was good enough for me," Stefanski said. "There were many people that reached out on TC's behalf."
T.C. McCartney's Coaching Background:
2011: Louisiana State University, graduate assistant/offensive assistant coach
2012-13: University of Colorado, graduate assistant/offensive assistant coach
2014: Cleveland Browns, offensive assistant coach
2015: San Francisco 49ers, offensive assistant/quality control coach
2016: Louisiana State University, graduate assistant/offensive assistant coach
2017-18: San Francisco 49ers, offensive assistant/quality control coach
2019: Denver Broncos, quarterbacks coach
2020-: Cleveland Browns, offensive assistant coach