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New coaching staff could lead to new-look offense

The potential is there for the Browns offense to look profoundly different in 2024.

The surprising changes made to the offensive coaching staff after the successful 2023 season, including at coordinator, allow for a reimagining of the system coach Kevin Stefanski installed in 2020. He’s tinkered throughout his tenure and sought to make significant adjustments after quarterback Deshaun Watson was acquired in a trade in March 2022, but the voices in the room remained largely the same.

Not anymore.

Ken Dorsey excited to get Deshaun Watson back to ‘elite level of who he is’

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Coordinator Ken Dorsey, tight ends coach/pass game specialist Tommy Rees and running backs coach Duce Staley have been hired and will be joined by a new offensive line coach. Gone are coordinator Alex Van Pelt, tight ends coach T.C. McCartney, running backs coach Stump Mitchell and line coach Bill Callahan.

Receivers coach/pass game coordinator Chad O’Shea is the only lead position coach left standing next to Stefanski, who’s a favorite to be NFL Coach of the Year for the second time after the Browns went 11-6 then lost in the wild card round of the playoffs.

“What can we do for us as an offense to take the next steps to help us get where we want to go and get some home playoff games late in the year? That’s what it’s all about for us,” Dorsey said Monday at his introductory news conference. “The whole offense is on the table. We’re going to look at this thing from the ground up, from cadences to formations to terminology. We’re going to go through and make sure all that stuff is in the best interest of us.”

Notes: Kevin Stefanski says Browns didn’t want to ‘stand in way’ of Bill Callahan joining son Brian with Titans

Stefanski, Van Pelt and Watson put their heads together last offseason in an effort to make the scheme more comfortable for Watson and better suited for what he does best. The alterations were noticeable — more shotgun, quarterback runs and run-pass options — but Watson was limited to six starts by a strained right rotator cuff then a broken bone in the same shoulder that required season-ending surgery.

Watson surely had his moments, including going 14-for-14 in the second half of a 33-31 comeback win in Baltimore, and for the season completed 61.4 percent for 1,115 yards, seven touchdowns, four interceptions and an 84.3 passer rating. While the sample size was small, inconsistencies remained and there’s a belief more can be done to maximize his skill set.

“He’s one of the premier quarterbacks in this league,” said Dorsey, a former Browns backup quarterback who’s coached the position. “The opportunity to really go out there this season and help him prove that he really is that — a top quarterback in this league that can operate and help us win a bunch of football games.”

Dorsey’s history with dual-threat quarterbacks Cam Newton in Carolina and Josh Allen in Buffalo was attractive. Newton won an MVP in 2015 and Allen finished runner-up in the voting in 2020, both with Dorsey as quarterbacks coach. He was promoted to coordinator with the Bills in 2022 and called plays until he was fired this season in November.

“Very early on, Ken was a guy that we identified that could help us, help me be an integral part of this offense,” Stefanski said. “What’s most important, what I’m looking forward to the most is putting this offense back together with Ken really leading the charge, and that’s why he’s here and I’m really pleased to have him here.”

Stefanski said he’s still deciding if he’ll continue to call the plays or hand the reins to Dorsey. Either way, they’ll collaborate with the rest of the staff on a vision for the scheme, playbook and game plans.

“You watch this offense on film and there’s a lot of exciting things about it, not only from a player standpoint, but what we’re doing in creativity and different ways to attack a defense,” Dorsey said. “Then obviously every year you look to evolve and to evaluate and change. There’s always that evolution that you look to try to stay ahead of the curve. So that’s going to happen.

“That’s the exciting part to come in now is to be a part of that and blend these kind of two different philosophies and incorporate different things that maybe we did in Buffalo or Carolina or whatnot. And then obviously we’ve got some other coaches who are coming in who are going to be able to add from their experiences. That’s what makes ball fun is to come in and really roll up your sleeves and say, OK, where do we want to go?”

He noted the identity of the offense won’t be fully formed until the roster is set, the season gets under way and the preferred personnel packages emerge. But the vision will be set over the next couple of months before the players report in April for the offseason program.

“There’s a lot of philosophical things that we will see eye to eye on and then there’s going to be some things that we’re going to hash out,” Dorsey said of Stefanski. “We’ll end up going in whatever direction we feel like is best suited for us as an offense. And at the end of the day, obviously Kevin’s the head coach and if that’s the decision he makes, then we’re full bore that direction.”

The Browns have been one of the league’s best and most frequent rushing teams under Stefanski. The Bills ranked 20th in rushes (25.3 a game) in 2022 and had inconsistent success on the ground during Dorsey’s 10 games this year.

“To be able to sit there and be able to put pressure on a defense by running the ball is a darn good thing, too,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with scoring points by running the ball. There’s nothing wrong with scoring points by throwing the ball. As good as this division is, and as good as those teams are on defense, we got to make sure that we’re attacking them in different ways.”

The offenses of the Browns and Bills had a common enemy this season: turnovers. The Browns led the league with 37, while the Bills had 18 before Dorsey was fired, including 13 in his final six games as they went 2-4 to fall to 5-5.

“We just literally had an offensive staff meeting, that was one of the factors that we talked about,” he said. “We have some critical factors on offense that I believe in, and I think Kevin believes in them as well, that we talked about this morning. And one of them is protecting the house. We as coaches and players, we pay our mortgage by winning football games. The best way to win games is to protect the football and make sure we’re doing the right thing.

“Wasn’t good enough in my time for a stretch there in Buffalo and then for us here. So that will be a point of emphasis for us to make sure we’re doing the right things to protect the football.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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