Gold as an investment

Women in Browns organization had input on Deshaun Watson trade, assistant coach says

Oct 1, 2022

BEREA — Callie Brownson was waiting in the lobby to welcome quarterback Deshaun Watson when he arrived at the Browns’ CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

No women in the organization except for co-owner Dee Haslam have commented on the controversial trade with the Houston Texans for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who now faces 24 civil lawsuits for alleged sexual misconduct during massage appointments and faces a possible suspension by the league.

Brownson, promoted to assistant wide receivers coach this season while still serving as coach Kevin Stefanski’s chief of staff, said Wednesday that she was given the opportunity to share her feelings on the Watson deal before it was finalized on March 18.

“We had a lot of really healthy conversations and I appreciated that,” Brownson told the Beacon Journal after an organized team activities session concluded. “I definitely felt like they cared about the opinions of the women in this organization.

“It was not neglected; it was not overlooked. They definitely spoke to those who would be involved in the organization to see what that meant.”

Cleveland Browns coach Callie Brownson works with the receivers during OTA workouts on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 in Berea.

Jimmy and Dee Haslam spoke on Zoom after Watson’s introductory press conference on March 25 and said they had involved their family, including adult daughters Whitney and Cynthia, in the decision to bring in Watson. Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict him on criminal charges.

General Manager Andrew Berry said the same day that the Browns “had a broad number of people, men and women, in the decision-making group.”

The acquisition of Watson did not change how Brownson feels about the team’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. After spending two years as chief of staff and filling in as an interim position coach due to COVID-19 or personal absences, Brownson was promoted to assist pass game coordinator/receivers coach Chad O’Shea.

“It’s one thing to talk the talk as it pertains to inclusion and diversity, not just hiring, but growing within,” Brownson said. “But for me to work for an organization that walks the walk with it and is invested in it and me, it’s incredible. It makes me happy that I made the decision to come here and be here with coach Stefanski. He’s a man of his word in that capacity from a development standpoint. My experience and my journey so far is definitely a testament to how they feel about growing young coaches and investing in our people.”

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Those efforts continue, with the Browns bringing in Philadelphia Eagles vice president of football operations Catherine Raîche to serve as assistant general manager and vice president of football operations.

Brownson, 32, doesn’t look too far ahead in terms of her career, but said her next goal is to be a position coach. She said Stefanski and O’Shea are giving her a push in that direction, allowing her to run the rookie receivers’ meetings.

That group includes Purdue’s David Bell, a third-round pick, and Oklahoma’s Michael Woods II, a sixth-rounder, along with undrafted free agents Isaiah Weston of Northern Iowa, Mike Harley Jr. of the University of Miami and Travell Harris of Washington State.

Cleveland Browns coach Callie Brownson works with the receivers during OTA workouts on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 in Berea.

“On top of our core meetings we get a little extra time with the rookies,” Brownson said. “Coach O’Shea’s big on development, so he said, ‘Hey, those extra rookie meetings are yours.’ It gives me a chance to get in front of a room and coach and teach. It’s development for me, as well to get comfortable in that setting.”

O’Shea said he has a lot of confidence in Brownson as a coach. Sam Rapoport, the NFL's senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the league is aware of seven women who will have coaching roles in 2022, although internships are still being finalized.

“I think she brings a lot as a coach and as a person," O'Shea said. "I know our guys are excited that she’s working with us. I’m excited that she’s there."

O'Shea knows Brownson can handle dual roles.

“She has great organizational skills,” O’Shea said. “She does a really good job of balancing all those things and placing a priority on the things she needs to get done.”

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Brownson said she helped O’Shea at times last season, so they already had a rapport.

“Kudos to coach O’Shea, he’s made it an easy transition,” she said. “It’s definitely a lot more work. The spring has been good for me because it’s helped me exercise how I’m going to juggle both roles and do 100% at both of them.”

Brownson said Stefanski has taken some of chief of staff duties off her plate, and some issues she’s had to mediate with other departments in the past are now routine because of continuity. She praises Stefanski, who stuck by her after she was suspended in 2021 for a drunken-driving arrest, and jokes that she's working for a “paper guy” in Stefanski.

“His calendar is printed out and written on. He’s old school in that regard, for sure,” she said. “We’ve got coaches who are still paper guys, we’ve got coaches that are in the digital age. Whatever works. Whatever helps hit the brain.”

Chief of Staff Callie Brownson before a NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns on October 31, 2021 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns lost 10-15.

Brownson will get more experience this summer as USA Football named her head coach of the U.S. women’s national tackle team for the 2022 IFAF World Championships in Vantaa, Finland, July 27-Aug. 8. Brownson will direct 45 players and seven assistants as Team USA tries to retain the gold medal it earned with Brownson playing receiver and safety in the 2013 and ’17 world championships.

“This is going to be an awesome experience for me,” Brownson said. “It is in the realm of possibility that I’ll be a head coach someday. Whether that will be in the NFL, college, don’t know, but this is the opportunity to learn through that experience and grow and lead a team.

“It’s also special because I played on this team, I know what it means to wear the uniform. I’m excited because I think I can give them the ultimate experience where they leave Finland, hopefully with the gold, but saying, ‘This is one of the greatest experiences I ever had.’”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Browns at www.beaconjournal.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.


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