It was a joyous occasion around the Cleveland Browns facility on Tuesday as the team introduced new head coach Kevin Stefanski in a press conference.
After an extensive interview process, the Browns pulled the trigger and hired Stefanski, who was previously the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator. Stefanski interviewed for the position last year, but it ultimately went to Freddie Kitchens, who was fired at the end of the Browns season after going 6-10.
Stefanski has been considered the pick of Browns Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta, who has been known to be a big proponent of analytics. That connection initially drew some ire when the hire was announced thanks to a report from Dustin Fox of 92.3 The Fan. He said that he was “told candidates also had to agree to turn in game plans to the owner and analytics department by Friday, and to attend an end-of-week analytics meeting to discuss their plan.” Stefanski promptly shot down the rumor.
“It’s not true,” Stefanski told reporters during his introductory press conference on Tuesday. “I like that report. That was a good one. It’s silly season for that type of stuff. I understand that. But, to me, analytics — I can’t say it enough — it’s a tool, it’s a tool that helps.”
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was a little more firm with his response to the report.
“Rumors out there about presenting the game plan and those kind are just totally inaccurate and I really think they’re irresponsible,” Haslam said. “I really do.”
Jimmy Haslam Shuts Down Rumor of Browns ‘Demands’
Haslam also talked about an additional article that profiled why Josh McDaniels wasn’t a fit for the Browns job. It centered around certain “demands” by DePodesta, including have an “analytics person with a head set and access to the coaching staff on game days, in addition to certain Haslam likes, such as hours-long, Monday-after, owner-coach meetings.”
“Let me ask you – if you owned a pro football team, would you meet with the head coach the Monday after the game? Of course you would. Of course we would,” Haslam said. “They’re 30 minutes to an hour meetings and I dare say we don’t discuss a lot different than the questions you all would ask him if you came to the game. It’s not a lot different than that.”
Kevin Stefanski Embracing Analytics With Browns
DePodesta said during the presser that he feels analytics get a bad rap, with people not totally understanding what they provide.
“When I think of analytics, I just think of having frameworks to make decisions under uncertainty,” DePodesta told cleveland.com. “For us, in terms of what the analytics said about Kevin Stefanski, my answer would be, this is what our references said. This is the personality testing that we did. This is what the interview process was. Those aren’t numbers or spreadsheets or anything like that, but it’s the framework we use to try to come up with the best candidate and ultimately Kevin checked all of the boxes.”
Stefanski doesn’t have a problem with utilizing analytics in his coaching and said he already had done it during his time calling plays in Minnesota.
“It’s something as I as a play caller that really was helpful,” he said. “It’s just another tool when it comes to play calling and personnel. Again, something that the Vikings did, something that I know the Browns do. We have so much of this information. We have years of it, so let’s use it to our advantage.”