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Browns Ready to Extend Stefanski, Berry

March 25, 20244 min read

When Andrew Berry was named general manager in January 2020, no one in Cleveland could expect the level of success he would have in just four years.

Looking back at the names BB (before Berry), the team's front office was simply a revolving door of disaster.

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Now Andrew Berry is the the team's winningest GM in 51 years, and at just 36 years old, it's no wonder the Haslam ownership team is committed to keeping him in Cleveland for years to come.

Eye for Talent

One of the biggest differences between the team now and BB, they are no longer dependent on the NFL draft to rebuild and acquire talent. While Berry certainly has shown the ability to draft quality players, if he swings and misses, the team has already built a roster of quality players through a combination of previous drafts, free agency, and trades.


Playing the Numbers

While Berry has been effective at roster-building for the coaching staff, he's been masterful at manipulating the salary cap to maximize Haslam's cash liquidity. With each restructured contract, the team is able to add more talent to create depth on its roster.

According to sports journalist Spencer German, the Browns are still expected to free up more salary cap space this off-season, by renegotiating the contracts for Nick Chubb, Amari Cooper, Deshaun Watson, and Jack Conklin. German wrote, "Whether Berry has a lot more planned this offseason or not, he has generally tried to create a buffer of cap space prior to the season that rolls over into additional cap space the following year."

Just within the last month, Berry has already freed-up over $30 million in salary cap space by restructuring Jed Wills', Jerry Jeudy's, and Denzel Ward's contracts.

Dick Friedman of Harvard Magazine wrote:

In this new age of sports analytics, Berry’s blend of on-field accomplishment and computer-science mastery is unusually attractive. “It’s enabled me to build both sides—to be bilingual, so to speak,” he says. “Analytics is the buzzword, but it’s really data, and using data to inform process and improve decisionmaking across a variety of domains.” Berry admits that some in the football world distrust the numbers approach. “It can be tough because there are times when things go against intuition and traditional norms,” he says. “Within organizations you want to build a progressive and growth mindset, where you are constantly learning and updating your beliefs based on the trends in the game and on hard data that may suggest something different from what you may think at first blush.”

An Ivy League Partner

Two weeks before the Browns named Andrew Berry as their next GM, they crowned Kevin Stefanski to be their next head coach. A Penn alumnus, the Browns were following a roadmap of football smarts by partnering Berry with Stefanski.

In the past four seasons, all Stefanski has done is win two NFL Coach of the Year awards and lead the team to two playoff appearances. Like Berry, what Stefanski has achieved in Cleveland is historically great for the franchise.


The Quarterback Whisperer

What Stefanski delivered to Cleveland was an offensive genius who specializes in working with quarterbacks. A former college cornerback and then offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, Stefanski learned how to pick-apart a defense.

With Baker Mayfield under center for the team in 2020, Stefanski's offensive scheme and tutelage created a tremendous level of success for the former #1 pick. That season, Mayfield had a passer rating of 95.9 with 26 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and 3563 yards.

Despite the carousel of quarterbacks after that season due to Mayfield's, Deshaun Watson's, and other quarterback's injuries, Stefanski has been creative and effective at getting the most out of his offense.


Kevin: Cool & Calm

During the Covid season of 2020, Browns fans couldn't see the expressions on Stefanski's masked face. As it turned out, Stefanski's expressionless face looks the same whether he's wearing a mask or not. Never allowing his emotions to get too high or too low, Stefanski has simply focused on the messages of "team" and "hard work."

Stefanski said at his opening press conference,

We will be methodical about it. We will not skip step Nos. 2 and 3 to get to 4. We're gonna start on the foundation and then we're gonna reinforce that foundation so we can build upon it… We'll be diligent about with working with our players so they can develop into the best versions of themselves. And ultimately we're building a foundation for what we hope is a championship effort. We'll have a culture of accountability."

According to the Ohio State Fisher College of Business, Stefanski changed the culture in Cleveland by adapting a leadership exercise from the VCU men's basketball program. This was done by getting buy-in from each of the players, "involving them in all steps of the culture-building process from vision and values to communication. Overall, he's provided a steady, authentic, and transparent presence to the team."

Culture Shift

With Berry and Stefanski driving this Browns bus for the foreseeable future, the culture has changed. No longer can teams call us "Elves" or say "The Browns is the Browns." Players want to play here, opponents fear playing here, and most importantly, we are consistently winning on Sundays.

Photo credit: Cleveland Browns official website.

Cleveland BrownsContractGMHead coachAndrew BerryKevin Stefanski

Nick Somich

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