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Browns' Kevin Stefanski named AP 2023 NFL Coach of the Year

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was voted the 2023 Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year on Thursday night at NFL Honors, the second time he's won the award.

Stefanski, 41, took home the award on a tiebreaker, as he and Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans each finished with 165 points, but Stefanski had 21 first-place votes to Ryans' 20.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell (33), San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan (26) and the Baltimore Ravens' John Harbaugh (26) rounded out the finalists' tallies, though Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay garnered 21 points.

Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-6 mark, which was a considerable achievement considering the number of season-ending injuries they faced. In addition to quarterback Deshaun Watson and running back Nick Chubb going down, the Browns lost their top three offensive tackles by season's end, as well as kicker Dustin Hopkins.

Cleveland, which has garnered three awards thus far at NFL Honors, made the postseason as the No. 5 seed but lost in the Super Wild Card Round, on the road to the Houston Texans. Nonetheless, the Browns making the playoffs -- and mostly thriving -- with Joe Flacco as Watson's replacement made Stefanski a front-runner for the award.

The Browns ended up starting five quarterbacks this season, with Watson only starting six games before a shoulder injury ended his season after a massive win at Baltimore. Fifth-round pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson started five games. Journeyman P.J. Walker was tabbed for two. With the Browns locked into their playoff seed, Jeff Driskel became the team's fifth starting QB in Week 18.

Flacco, who was a free agent before the Browns signed him to their practice squad Nov. 19, became one of the franchise's least likely heroes after Flacco's teams had gone 18-3 against the Browns in his career. In five regular-season starts for Cleveland, Flacco threw for 1,616 and 13 touchdowns, leading the team in both categories, and guided the team to four crucial victories to make the postseason.

Stefanski first received Coach of the Year honors after the 2020 season when the Browns ended an 18-year playoff drought and won their first postseason game since the 1994 season.

In four seasons with the Browns, Stefanski has amassed a record of 37-30, surpassing Bill Belichick (36) for fifth place in franchise history for coaching victories. Stefanski has a ways to go to catch franchise icon Paul Brown and his 158 wins, but with another strong season in 2024, Stefanski could surpass Sam Rutigliano (47) and Marty Schottenheimer (44), who rank third and fourth, respectively, on that list.

But whether or not he does, Stefanski has helped usher in a new era of Browns football -- one that has seen more playoff football in Cleveland than in previous decades combined.

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