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‘Taste of success’: What the Browns are taking with them into the offseason

Browns Steelers Football
Posted at 6:22 PM, Jan 18, 2021

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are preparing for their offseason after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs Sunday afternoon. Although it stings, the team isn’t licking their wounds—but rather using the experience to grow and be even better next season.

In a season with a modified training camp and no preseason games, and with COVID-19 issues across the league, including within the Browns organization at points, the team never stopped working to grow and be better—individually and as a unit.

But where are the Browns at after Sunday’s loss and what will next season look like?

Coaching staff

The Browns are finally set on their head coach after Kevin Stefanski proved himself this season.

Now, without turnover at the top, the Browns are expected to enter next season with the same staff, Stefanski said.

“I do expect the coaching staff back next season,” Stefanski said. “Really proud of this group. They worked very, very hard in some tough circumstances. People stepped up when some of us were out and I love the way our group worked together and were very much trying to solve problems this season as they came about.”

From Stefanski and Alex Van Pelt developing Baker Mayfield into the Browns schemes and improving his footwork and progressions, to the successful growth of the offensive line under coach Bill Callahan’s guidance, to the organization provided by Callie Brownson during times of chaos, the Browns coaching staff made incredible strides in their first season together.

Next season, Joe Woods, Chris Kiffin, Jason Tarver, and Jeff Howard may have a few new faces to work with as Andrew Berry is expected to focus on bolstering the defense this offseason the way he was able to do so with the offense last offseason.

Chemistry

One thing that can’t be overlooked is the significance of the Browns core remaining together with the same coaches—and quarterback—for consecutive years. That’s not something Cleveland is used to but definitely something that they’ll enjoy moving forward.

Mayfield is working with his fourth head coach in the three years he’s been in the league, which is a tough position to be in as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Thankfully for Mayfield, the team, and fans, Stefanski isn’t going anywhere and for the first time in his career, Mayfield will not have to go into the offseason preparing to learn a new offense.

Stefanski said that he spoke to Mayfield Monday and that the quarterback is excited to head into the offseason with continuity.

“That’s a huge part of this, we can start at the baseline, we can start at that foundation and build on what we’ve done to date,” Stefanski said.

It’s not just Mayfield who will benefit from the lack of massive turnover this offseason.

Center JC Tretter said on Monday how good it will be for him and his teammates on the offensive line to have their core established.

“It’s exciting to know that we’re all going to be back next year and we’ll be able to grow together and continue to learn and get better and hopefully continue to provide this team a run game that helps this offense and this team win,” Tretter said.

A star returns?

The narrative that the Browns are better without star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who suffered a season-ending knee injury Week 7, remained throughout the season as the Browns continued to develop their offensive identity and win games.

But that narrative doesn’t account for the lack of chemistry able to be developed between Mayfield and Beckham under this offense with the lack of time at training camp and no preseason games.

Now, with Beckham having rehabbed throughout the course of this season and continuing into the offseason, plus the potential for a more normal offseason as the country works to control COVID-19, he may have his chance to shine once again.

Stefanski said on Monday that he texted Beckham and is looking forward to getting him back.

“I know he’s working really hard to get better in his rehab and I'm excited to get him back here,” Stefanski said. “I know it has not been easy for him being away from his teammates, especially as these games got bigger and into the playoffs, I know he definitely wanted to be a part of it.”

Beckham will look to prove himself and help the team get even farther next season.

Playoff experience

One of the most important things the Browns are taking with them into the offseason is the experience of playing in and winning, postseason games.

That experience is something that can prove useful to the team as they look to come back next season stronger and make it even farther, ultimately reaching a place the organization has never been able to get to—the Super Bowl.

Next season, with the lessons learned from Sunday’s tough loss, as well as the lessons learned in the monumental win the week before against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns will look to correct mistakes and be better for them.

“I thought it was going to be tight and we were going to have an opportunity late in the game and we were going to have to go on and drive. I just did not put the guys in position to succeed. That is where I am going to work really hard to make sure the next time that we are in that situation that I do,” Stefanski said on Monday.

Running back Nick Chubb said the next step is to reflect on their experiences and grow from them as individual players and as a team.

“I think we can just hone down on what we have been doing, what we have going, and just master it and just take a look at everything. For now, just self-evaluate ourselves as a team and as individuals, look where we can improve in areas, take some time off and go back to work and improve,” Chubb said. “Even yesterday when things looked bad, we still fought to the end and never gave up. That is the biggest thing. I think it is just the beginning of this team. We just have to keep getting better, keep improving and never lose that fight.”

Now heading into this offseason with 12 wins—one in the playoffs—under their belts, the Browns have something they haven’t had in years—the taste of success.

“When you taste the success like we did this season, I think the guys understand that the work that they did was what allowed them to taste that success,” Stefanski said. “I already am hearing from them that they want to get back and I appreciate that, and in the same breath, just talking about how they want to get back to work.”

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Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.