CLEVELAND -- A year ago to the day, Freddie Kitchens sat in front of a lectern wearing a sport coat and a ballcap. In his introductory press conference as the Cleveland Browns' next head coach, Kitchens was his folksy self, joking about using big words like "facetious." He coined the motto, "If you don't wear orange and brown, you don't matter," which immediately appeared on T-shirts all over town.
One year later to the day, the Browns had another, very different news conference to introduce Kevin Stefanski, their 18th and latest head coach.
Stefanski, dressed in a blue suit, opined on the virtue of analytics. Unlike Kitchens, who from day one declared he'd be calling plays, Stefanski said the franchise would "work through" whether his calling plays would be the right fit.
Stefanski also praised everyone who worked in the Browns building, a sign that the days of perpetual infighting among warring factions in Cleveland, from front office to coaching staff, could finally be in the past.
And his most memorable quote was more message to Cleveland's star players than T-shirt catchphrase.
"Personality is welcome," Stefanski said. "Your production is required."
Who knows if Stefanski will be the coach to snap the longest playoff drought in the NFL, which is up to 17 consecutive seasons and counting. But from owner Jimmy Haslam to chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta to Stefanski -- and whatever general manager the three hire together in the coming days -- the Browns are at the least aligned on the same page. That in and of itself is a welcomed change from the past.
"I think ‘alignment' is a great word," Stefanski said. "Another way of saying it is, we are all on the same page. I think that's important. We know this, if we are plowing in the same direction, we got a chance. This thing is about a shared vision. It is not about what Kevin Stefanski wants for the Cleveland Browns. We have a vision of what this is going to look like moving forward and it's a collective vision."
Finding that collective vision has escaped the Browns since Haslam purchased the team in 2012. That has propelled unparalleled turnover in Cleveland.
But Tuesday it was clear, from ownership to the front office to the head coach, the Browns finally have a shared vision, with a foundation in making, as Stefanski put it, "informed decisions."
"I am looking for any edge we can get," said Stefanski, referring to analytics, and how much it will drive what the Browns do moving forward. "Information is power."
The Browns have tried to lean on analytics before, most notably in 2016 when Sashi Brown was the key decision-maker in the front office. But that same year, Haslam hired a coach in Hue Jackson, who didn't share the same vision. Before long, the Browns had no vision at all. They went 1-15, then 0-16. Brown was gone before the end of the 2017 season. Jackson was gone midway through the next one.
Cleveland then went the other way with general manager John Dorsey, a longtime traditional scout, and Kitchens, who was a running backs assistant under Jackson. But they never aligned -- or collaborated well -- with DePodesta or the analytics wing of the front office, which had pushed for Haslam to hire Stefanski last year.
Now Stefanski is in Cleveland. And the Browns have a coach who speaks the same language as DePodesta and the new front office.
"Analytics, it's a tool," Stefanski said. "How does it help on game day? Well, I would meet with some of our people with the Vikings and they would help me understand as we got into this ballgame, down- and distance-wise, field position-wise, where a (defensive) coordinator may be more apt to blitz. I can tell you certain decisions you make, whether it be for protection or when to run certain plays, you have that in mind … by compiling that data. I just think it is another tool when it comes to playcalling and personnel.
"We have so much of this information. We have years of it. So let's use it to our advantage."