Kevin Stefanski and Andrew Berry are getting all the love now, but there is another coach that may be a bigger difference-maker for the Browns in 2020.
General manager Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski deserve a ton of credit for the offseason success in 2020. The Cleveland Browns have brought in a tremendous amount of talent via free agency, and they had a very successful draft at the end of April.
Now, Brown’s fans must be careful as the offseason champions title doesn’t mean or prove anything. A disappointing 6-10 record in 2019 is all the proof you need for that.
The one hire that may be overlooked by some is the new offensive line coach Bill Callahan. We all know the struggles Baker Mayfield had in 2019. With 22 passing touchdowns and 21 interceptions, only Jameis Winston threw more interceptions than Mayfield last season.
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Part of the issue appeared to be erratic play calling and a lot of confusion between the players and staff, but a major part of it was Mayfield running for his life most of the season. Tackles Chris Hubbard and Greg Robinson were both inconsistent for much of the season, Robinson was even benched for poor performance.
Some may argue Callahan has walked into some lucky situations, but his resume is long and filled with many success stories. Here’s a peek at just a few.
1995 to 1996 – Callahan started his career with the Philadelphia Eagles as an offensive line coach. The offense jumped from 21st in the league in scoring to 9th after one year.
1998 to 2000 – Callahan moved to the Oakland Raiders where he helped the offense quickly. The total offense jumped from 22nd in the league to 3rd in just three seasons.
2002 – Callahan took Raiders to a Super Bowl as head coach, before losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2012 to 2014 – Callahan coached and developed three All-Pro linemen in the 2014 season for the Dallas Cowboys. (Zach Martin, Tyron Smith, and Travis Fredrick)
Yes, there are a lot of big names on the lists above, and maybe they would have been great without the coaching of Callahan. However, many players have been outspoken about Callahan, saying he is one of the best offensive line coaches you will ever find. After being sacked 40 times in 2019, Mayfield will welcome the changes with open arms.
Look for three major changes to take place and upgrade the Browns offense in 2020. One, the addition of Jack Conklin (free agency), and Jedrick Wills. Jr (Pick no. 10 in the draft, who Callahan recommended). Look for Mayfield to have time in the pocket and begin to see the field as he did in 2018. A year of development with Odell Beckham will also be beneficial.
Two, better coaching all around. The scheme of Stefanski and position coaching from Alex Van Pelt will help the mechanics of Mayfield. With more time in the pocket, Mayfield can focus on each throw and won’t be high on targets as he was much of last season. Play action and a strong running game are any quarterbacks best friend, which Stefanski always looks to utilize.
Finally, the third piece to success will be the hiring of Callahan. Yes, Conklin, Joel Bitonio, and J.C. Tretter have been in the league and are already strong players. But tackle Wills and whoever wins the right guard position will require a lot of coaching. Call me crazy, but if the Browns live up to expectations, they could have four offensive linemen make the pro-bowl in Conklin, Bitonio, Tretter, and Wills.
Maybe there is too much hype on an offensive line coach, but one thing is for certain, no offense can be effective with poor protection for their quarterback. Look for Wills to be a solid starter in 2020, and the offensive line to be drastically improved under Callahan.
With more time in the pocket, Mayfield will take off from where he started in his rookie season.