When Kevin Stefanski took over as the Cleveland Browns new coach, he didn't completely jettison the entire staff. Several key incumbents remain, including running backs coach Stump Mitchell.
The Browns running backs room is currently led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and includes D'Ernest Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard. The Chubb-Hunt duo gives Cleveland dynamic dual-threat options few rosters can match. Mitchell, the run game coordinator as well as RBs coach, said the group remains "special" despite the Browns' overall disappointing season in 2019.
"The most important thing was the type of talent we have here, knowing what we're capable of doing even though we didn't get it done last year," Mitchell said, via the team's official website. "(Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer) kind of said it best. It's unfinished business. There's things we should have accomplished but we didn't totally get it done.
"Having the opportunity to come back with the running backs -- Nick, Kareem, Dontrell and D'Ernest -- there's definitely going to be a satisfying feeling. Now we've just got to learn a new system and go out and get it done."
Chubb was the best Browns player for the balance of last season, galloping for 1,494 rushing yards with eight touchdowns on 298 totes, and added 36 receptions for 278 yards and three more scores. Chubb netted the fourth-most rushing yards in franchise history, behind only Hall of Famer Jim Brown. The 24-year-old was in line to be the NFL's leading rusher before Derrick Henry blasted past him in Week 17. That honor could be part of the unfinished business Mitchell referred to.
Hunt -- who is dealing with a latest off-field issue, but the organization has not indicated they're planning to part ways -- brings pass-catching acumen along with the ability to run inside or get to the edge that provides the Browns as good a one-two punch as there is in the league.
"The greatest effect it could have on those guys, and they already do it, is to push them," Mitchell said. "They don't mind working hard, so that's not a big deal. To hear the same voice, there's something to it. Those guys know what I'm about and I know what they're about. They're about achieving the most they possibly can and that's all you're looking to help them do."
Browns fans often became frustrated last season when former coach Freddie Kitchens would get away from Chubb and the run game for stretches. Stefanski's job will be ensuring his best players continue to touch the ball in key spots.
While the offseason might focus on Baker Mayfield and the passing attack bouncing back from a disappointing year, the Browns' run game under Stefanski will be interesting to track as we head toward the 2020 season. He earned success in Minnesota last season with Dalvin Cook, but Gary Kubiak's scheme received most of the credit. What sort of rushing attack Cleveland employs this season and how it meshes with the talent in Chubb and Hunt will be key if the Browns are to finally turn the corner.