BEREA — Coach Kevin Stefanski has his offensive coordinator.
He still doesn’t know who will call the plays.
Stefanski confirmed the hiring of Alex Van Pelt as offensive coordinator and raved about him as a coach but has yet to decide if he or Van Pelt will call plays.
“We will work through it,” Stefanski said Wednesday. “I do not know. That is the God’s honest truth. Like I said before and it is still true today, we will do what is best for the Browns.”
Stefanski called plays for the Vikings for the last year-plus. Van Pelt called plays in his only year as coordinator, 2009 with the Bills.
Van Pelt, 49, was a backup quarterback for nine years with the Bills and coached quarterbacks for nine years in the NFL, including four with Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and the last two for the Bengals.
“He is of the highest integrity, which matters a lot to me and to this organization,” Stefanski said of Van Pelt. “I think his reputation as an offensive mind, he played the game, played the position and has coached the position, so I think he just really checked all the boxes for me.”
Stefanski is still finalizing his staff and hasn’t decided whether he’ll hire a quarterbacks coach. If not, Van Pelt would handle the job of working hands-on with Baker Mayfield, whose footwork got sloppy at times in 2019 as he finished 31st in the NFL with 31 interceptions, a 59.4 completion percentage and 78.8 passer rating.
INTO THE WOODS?
Joe Woods was expected to finally arrive at team headquarters Wednesday afternoon. He was pass game coordinator/defensive backs coach for the 49ers and unavailable until after the Super Bowl on Sunday.
He’s in line to be the defensive coordinator, but Stefanski wasn’t ready to make the move official.
“He is an outstanding football mind,” Stefanski said. “You saw that defense and what they were able to do this year. I think adding Joe to the mix was very impressive.
“A good family man. I have known him for a long time, and at the appropriate time, we will kind of dive into that.”
The 49ers held Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in check until midway through the fourth quarter, including intercepting him twice, before Mahomes led a comeback from 20-10 down to the 31-20 victory.
Stefanski and Woods worked together with the Vikings from 2006-13. Woods was the defensive backs coach, as he’s been throughout his career.
He spent one season with the 49ers after four years with the Broncos, including serving as coordinator in 2017-18 under coach Vance Joseph.
The decision to draft Mayfield with the No. 1 pick in 2018 belonged to then-general manager John Dorsey, but new GM Andrew Berry was part of the process as a vice president of player personnel.
“I can tell you there was kind of an organizational consensus with selecting him with the first overall pick,” he said. “Still have a lot of belief in Baker as a quarterback, his talent and what we think he can become in the NFL. Looking forward to seeing what Kevin, Alex and his staff do with Baker this spring and into the fall. We are really excited about his future, and I am really excited about the work that Kevin is going to do with him.”
DIVERSITY IS ESSENTIAL
Not only is Berry, 32, the youngest general manager in the history of the NFL, he’s one of two black GMs currently in the 32-team league.
“I believe success in the NFL comes from good people, and good people come from all walks of life,” he said. “It is for that reason that we are going to be very deliberate in pushing diversity across football operations because it leads to success. And I know that I have been the benefactor of people looking beyond my age and my race throughout every phase of my career.
“The thing is diversity in the NFL transcends race, age and gender. Diversity of experience and diversity of thought are just as important.”
Stefanski’s chief of staff is Callie Brownson, who will be the first woman in team history to have a coaching role.
Berry doesn’t feel an urgency to add to the top of the personnel department despite the departure of assistant general manager Eliot Wolf, vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith and director of college scouting Steve Malin last week. Berry may make hires after the draft in April, but any moves before then would be on a consultant basis.
“We have a lot of really talented people in the building at this time already,” he said.
** The expectation of the organization is that Commissioner Roger Goodell will reinstate defensive end Myles Garrett from his indefinite suspension during the offseason.
“I was part of drafting him here previously,” Berry said. “Obviously this fall he made a huge mistake, but we know who Myles is as a person and we look forward to welcoming him back.”
** Stefanski said veteran offensive line coach Bill Callahan runs the wide zone scheme Stefanski used with the Vikings.