Athletes - Leadership/Character

Will COVID Curb the Browns’ New Culture?

Cleveland Brown’s Head Coach Kevin Stefanski just tested positive for COVID-19 and will sit out of the Browns’ playoff game against Pittsburgh.

His response? Don’t complain; take the next step.

The players understand they have a job to do. They know that this thing isn’t stopping me or anyone… we’ve got to find a way. That’s what our charge is,” he said.

The Cleveland Browns made history this year. With a win against the rival Steelers last week, they secured a spot in the NFL Playoffs for the first time in nearly 20 years.

The 11 wins they earned already signifies one of the most successful seasons in franchise history. Before this year, the Browns won 11 games or more only 8 times in 74 seasons. And in the seasons when they weren’t playoff contenders, they were not nipping at the heels of the big dogs in the AFC, they were in the back of the pack. There have been 19 seasons when the Browns had 11 losses, including the recent 0-16 season that earned them the top pick in the draft and, ultimately, Baker Mayfield.

The Browns’ woes are as old as baker Mayfield himself. Literally. Mayfield was born in 1995 – the last time the Browns won 11 games was 1994, when the Browns had Bill Belichick as head coach.

Over the last 3 years, Mayfield and the Browns have grown together.

Baker Mayfield is no stranger to growth. He started his career at Oklahoma University as a walk-on. Mayfield eventually earn a scholarship, then captain status, then All-American status, then he won the Heisman Trophy, then he was taken with the first overall draft pick by the Browns. He worked hard every step of the way.

After acquiring Mayfield, the Browns brought in additional talent but they hadn’t yet solidified their culture. The team known for losing and having some of the ugliest uniforms and professional football brought some talent on board, but their culture had a long way to go. That culture seems to be changing with Kevin Stefanski.

Though he’s new to town, Stefanski seems to be putting down roots.

He spent 14 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before making the move to Ohio. Before Minnesota, he was an All-Ivy League defensive back at U. Penn. That checks two important boxes: committed, and smart. Most importantly, he seems to be clicking with his new QB.

Together, Stefanski and Mayfield have made a habit of overcoming odds, silencing critics, and achieving a level of success that no Browns team has accomplished in recent memory.

Now, struck with an additional setback, they revert to their default methods. The Browns of the past would have folded. It seems that the default position of these current Browns is different.

They are faced with a significant uphill battle – among the 5 members of the Browns organization who have tested positive is Joel Bitonio, the team’s Pro-Bowl left guard.

When faced with adversity, talent goes out the window. These Browns will only be as sound as their structure, as sturdy as their foundation.

No complaints, take the next step.

Whatever happens in the wildcard round against the Pittsburgh Steelers, it seems as though the Browns organization is finally heading in the right direction.

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