INDIANAPOLIS — Waiting is the easy part for coach Kevin Stefanski.
He will delay deciding if he or offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays, and said the final decision might not come until after the preseason finale.
“It’s just something that I don’t think we need to make a decision on right this moment here in February,” Stefanski said Tuesday at the scouting combine. “But I think in fairness to AVP, I think I need to give him some opportunities to call it in practice, call it in the preseason so that I can get comfortable with him calling it, or I can get comfortable with me calling it, but that’s definitely a fluid situation and Alex understands that.”
Neither has much experience calling plays.
Stefanski was promoted to interim coordinator and called plays for the first time in the final three games of the 2018 season with the Vikings after John DeFilippo was fired. Stefanski became the coordinator for 2019 and called plays as the Vikings reached the second round of the playoffs. The Vikings ranked 16th in total offense (353.5 yards a game) and eighth in scoring (25.4 points).
Van Pelt’s only time calling plays was in 2009 with the Bills, who ranked 30th overall and 28th in scoring (16.1). He was a backup quarterback for nine years and has mostly coached quarterbacks, including the last two seasons with the Bengals.
Plenty of head coaches, including first-timers, call plays, but Browns fans are scarred by the team’s recent history. Pat Shurmur, Hue Jackson and Freddie Kitchens struggled with the multitasking during games, and Kitchens refused to let veteran play caller Todd Monken take the reins despite the offensive problems in 2019. Kitchens was fired after going 6-10 in his lone season as head coach.
Many coaches get territorial about play calling, but Stefanski insists he’s not that way.
“Calling plays is exciting, it’s not fun,” he said. “When you’re done calling plays you sink into the couch.
“But what’s fun is winning. So that’s what I’m about and whatever gives the Browns the best chance to have winning, that’s what we’ll do.”
Stefanski has been consistent with that message. He said the same thing during his introductory news conference in January.
He’d never worked with Van Pelt or knew him well, so he wants to take time to let the relationship grow and sort out their responsibilities.
“I like a bunch about Alex,” Stefanski said. “He’s been in a bunch of different systems and that’s similar to my experience. I think that’s helpful in formulating your own plan of attack.
“I think highly of his coaching. I think there’s something to be said for being a former player and look at how many backup QBs become successful coaches. That speaks to having to prepare while knowing you may not get any real reps. Alex is a really, really good football coach. All those (play-calling) discussions and decisions can wait till further in the offseason.”
Van Pelt comes with a strong reference from his former boss, Bengals coach Zac Taylor.
“Great coach. Hate to lose him because he was a great resource for us,” Taylor said. “It was an opportunity we had to allow him to take because he’s earned it and you don’t want to stunt someone’s growth in that way.
“Unfortunately, he’s in our division. That’s the part you don’t love, but he’s a great man. He’s earned this right to be the offensive coordinator for the Browns. Unfortunately, they are going to be in great hands with him.”