Kevin O’Connell, a former NFL quarterback who has tutored numerous college prospects during their preparations for the draft, has been named the Browns’ new quarterbacks coach, Mike Pettine announced Tuesday.
Pettine also announced the hiring of senior offensive assistant Kurt Roper, assistant wide receivers coach Frank Edgerly and offensive quality control coach Michael McCarthy.
O’Connell, 29, takes over for Dowell Loggains, who was not retained from last year’s staff.
“Kevin has already shown a knack for individual teaching at a high level,” Pettine said. “Our experience being around him makes us confident he will easily transition into being an extremely valuable member of our staff.”
O’Connell became acquainted with both Pettine and Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo during the 2009 season, when they were coaches with the New York Jets. O’Connell, a third-round pick out of San Diego State, spent his first season with the New England Patriots and had a brief stint with the Detroit Lions before landing with the Jets.
Though O’Connell didn’t throw a pass that season, he left a lasting impression on Pettine. It was reaffirmed during 2014 training camp, when O’Connell spent a few days with the Browns coaching staff.
“He displayed knowledge of football schematics far beyond your typical player – even for a quarterback,” Pettine said. “The combination of personality and knowledge made it clear he would make an outstanding coach. He was outstanding in the interview and instantly fit in with our group of offensive coaches that sat in.”
O’Connell finished his NFL career with a stint in Miami, a brief return to the Jets and some preseason time with the San Diego Chargers.
“Throughout my NFL career, I always tried to put in as much time as possible with not only my offensive coaches, but also coaches on the other side of the ball,“ O’Connell said. ”I wanted to learn all the aspects of the game at the highest of levels. I was very fortunate to be around some outstanding coaches like Coach Pettine, who really helped me grow in my understanding of the game and what goes into being successful on Sundays.”
After O’Connell stepped away from the NFL, he began a career as a private quarterbacks coach at Prolific Athletes in Carlsbad, California. O’Connell worked closely with Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel in the months leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, focusing specifically on film study and the mental part of the game. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Logan Thomas and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans were also students in O’Connell’s classroom.
Recently, he logged close to a month with top quarterback prospects Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty. O’Connell said he was grateful of Pettine for allowing him to finish out the tutelage he promised to Mariota leading into the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine before being hired to his role as the Browns’ new quarterbacks coach.
“I feel like we were able to accomplish a lot and he’s going to be in a really good situation moving forward wherever that may be,” O’Connell said. “I really was thankful to the organization for allowing me to do that. I made a commitment to Marcus and it wouldn’t have felt right not following through with him knowing that he trusted me for this important time preparing to start his NFL Career.”
Pettine said O’Connell and DeFilippo, whose coaching background largely centers on the quarterback position, will work “very closely” together to guide the Browns’ quarterbacks. O’Connell called the importance of the relationship “huge” and said he’d rely heavily on DeFilippo’s insight because of his years of experience coaching quarterbacks of all ages.
“Flip has an outstanding blueprint for developing quarterbacks that they will implement together,” Pettine said. “Regardless of the situation, the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator must be in lockstep, with the quarterbacks coach largely in charge of fundamentals while the offensive coordinator can focus more on scheme.”
At San Diego State, O’Connell, who hails from Knoxville, Tennessee served as a team captain all four seasons. He thrived as a dual threat quarterback throwing for 3,063 yards and 15 touchdowns while adding 408 yards and 11 more scores on the ground during his final year. He finished with numerous program records, including rushing yards for a quarterback (1,312) and was second in program history with 9,001 yards of total offense.
Roper, 42, comes to Cleveland after one season as the offensive coordinator at the University of Florida. A former college quarterback and defensive back at Rice, Roper served as David Cutcliffe’s offensive coordinator at Duke from 2008–2013 and spent several years as an offensive assistant in the Southeastern Conference.
Edgerly joined the Browns’ player personnel staff in June 2013. A former quarterback at Rutgers, Edgerly was the head coach of Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic High School for 10 seasons before joining the New England Patriots in 2009 as a scout. He’ll work alongside the Browns’ new wide receivers coach, Joker Phillips.
McCarthy, 29, was the tight ends coach at North Carolina Central University in 2014. He was a scouting and coaching intern with the Jets in 2008 before holding graduate assistant coaching positions at Western Michigan and Tulane. McCarthy replaces Richard Hightower who left the Browns last month to become the San Francisco 49ers assistant special teams coach.