New Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has plenty of talent at his fingertips but getting the mercurial Odell Beckham Jr. to buy in is a major key.
The frustrations for the Cleveland Browns in the 2019 season were numerous and, as such, caused plenty of apparent rifts in the locker room. But if you had to point to one that was most obvious, it was between star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — who the team traded for in the 2019 offseason — and then-head coach Freddie Kitchens.
Due to his lack of targets, poor usage in the play-calling and Beckham’s generally turbulent nature, the pass-catcher and head coach were never on the same page. And for as talented as OBJ is on the field, he’s also proven that him being disgruntled can lead to an offense ultimately crumbling within. That’s not to say he was the root of everything that went wrong in Cleveland this past season — but it didn’t help, that’s for certain.
Now former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski is set to take over as the new head coach after Kitchens was relieved before all of Week 17 was in the books. The hope is that Stefanski, who thrived with Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in Minnesota can do the same for Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry and, of course, Beckham.
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Though it’s still early in the process without anything on the field officially happening, the new relationship between Beckham and Stefanski is looking up. In an interview with Complex.com’s Zach Frydenlund, the wide receiver said he got a “good feeling” for what Stefanski has in store for he and Landry:
With the new coach coming in, just seeing what he did with the Minnesota Vikings for a long time with Thielen and Diggs. These are people who I’ve watched closely on their film, and just seeing the things that he did and meeting him and seeing where his mind’s at for Jarvis and myself of how this will all work out, I have a good feeling about it, you know?
If nothing else, it seems as if the relationship between Beckham and Stefanski is off to a positive start. But as we progress into the offseason with minicamps, workouts and so on, it’s going to be vital to the Browns’ success that the relationship remains positive.
Granted, it should not be the job of the head coach to make sure that one player is happy. That’s not the way team sports work. However, OBJ being happy and the rest of the team being pleased largely go hand-in-hand. If Beckham is getting his touches and being used properly, not only is he more likely to be content with the situation and head coach but the team is also in a better position to get wins.
There’s no question that Beckham’s mercurial nature often complicates things for teams and this is no different. The elite skill that he offers on the field, however, makes that worth the risk if the team is capable of dealing with it properly. Things are seemingly off to a good start with him and Stefanski. For the sake of Cleveland though, let’s hope they stay that way as things progress.