At 32 years old, there's not much T.C. McCartney hasn't learned yet about how to operate an NFL offense.
McCartney, who's already entering his eighth year in the league, has held a variety of offensive-minded roles on multiple teams and has learned a variety of playbooks. He's mainly served as an offensive assistant in the NFL since 2014, his first season in the league when he joined the Browns.
Since then, he's made stops in San Francisco as an offensive assistant and quality control coach (2015, 2017-18) and Denver as a quarterbacks coach (2019), as well as a visit back to LSU, his alma mater, to be a graduate assistant/offensive assistant in 2016.
Now entering his fourth season with the Browns and third under head coach Kevin Stefanski, McCartney is taking on a new role Stefanski believes he'll thrive in because of his wide array of knowledge about the offense: tight ends coach.
"I've been in this offensive system for basically my entire career," McCartney said. "That's seven years of being in the run game and understanding the different techniques and mindsets it takes to succeed. I also have a good grasp on the pass game, and that'll definitely help get these guys to where they want to be."
McCartney has remained an offensive assistant since his second stint with the Browns started in 2020. A good chunk of his work was centered on the quarterback position, which required him to be knowledgeable about all parts of the playbook — from offensive line protections to audibles to passing reads to, well, everything.
That knowledge should offer a smooth transition for McCartney into the tight ends room, where he'll be filling in for Drew Petzing, who is now the Browns' quarterbacks coach.
Tight ends carry heavy roles in both the run and pass game and are one of the most important positions in Stefanski's playbook, which often requires at least two tight ends to be on the field. They're just as important as offensive linemen when the play call is a run, and they're obviously an important part of the pass game — tight ends received 28 percent of targets last season, and two of the top three Browns' leading receivers last year were tight ends.
A mastery of blocking schemes and route designs on each play is necessary to coach the room, which is why Stefanski tabbed McCartney for the job.
"Other positions don't have both," McCartney said. "You have to be an expert on all of those things, and it's similar to (coaching) the quarterback position where you have to know everything that's going on."
McCartney considers the new role as moving up a step on the coaching ladder, too, and having an opportunity to grow even more as a coach. Stefanski, who was a tight ends coach with the Vikings in 2014-15 when he first became a position coach in the NFL, believes McCartney is ready to be placed on a similar trajectory up the coaching ranks.
"T.C. is a really good, young coach that has a ton of experience in NFL systems," he said. "We think he's ready to take on the challenge of coaching the tight ends. I think it's a great place for young coaches to grow. It's something I did when I first moved to a position coach, and I think T.C. will do great in applying all the knowledge he already has."
McCartney is thankful Stefanski has continued to deliver on a message he's preached to his coaching staff since their first days together in 2020 — coaching development is going to be a priority in Berea, and it's clear that message has been kept as the Browns head into Year 3 with nearly the same coaching staff as they started with in Year 1.
It's something McCartney, as a 32-year-old with loads of experience in the league already, knows not to take for granted.
"One thing I take pride in during my eight years in the NFL is I've never skipped a step," he said. "I've been at every level, and I know how the decisions at the top affect every level. Kevin wanted to have young coaches come here and develop and move up within the system. I wanted to come here, and he was true to his word. I've developed, and I've been able to move up."