“We should have won, but we didn’t” was the statement made after the loss to the lowly Atlanta Falcons. No, wait, or was it after blowing a 13-point lead against the then-winless New York Jets when all the offense had to do was take three kneel-downs and kick a chip shot field goal?
Two missed field goals against the Los Angeles Chargers only to lose by two. Getting boat-raced by New England and the second Cincinnati game when a lower seed playoff spot was on the line. The New York Jets game was already won if simple math of the play clock was applied.
Regardless, the fact that the Browns are 5-8-0 is a travesty to say the very least. This is professional football, where players and coaches get paid big bucks to get wins over inferior opponents.
Stink. Stank. Stunk.
Has it come to the point to ask the question if Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski should be let go after this season? Or should the front office be more patient and give him at least one more year, or longer?
The defense can’t stop the run. Special teams have been inconsistent. The offense under interim quarterback Jacoby Brissett had built up their reputation as a Top-5 offensive threat and now is ranked 15th.
Cleveland fans are asking themselves: At this juncture, what exactly is good about the Browns?
Stefanski is an offensive coach and calls the plays. He was hired in 2020 after the Freddie Kitchens experience went awry. In just his first year, the Browns finished 11-5-0 and made the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. For his efforts, Stefanski was named NFL Coach of the Year. The franchise even won a playoff game over Pittsburgh and darn near beat Kansas City in the Divisional Playoff Game.
In 2021, the Browns played a roller coaster schedule in which they began 3-1-0, then lost four of six before finishing the year 8-9-0 losing three of their last four games.
And this season the wheels fell off. After trading for QB Deshaun Watson, he went AWOL during an 11-game suspension as the offense floundered, was great, played so-so, was fantastic, lost several close games, lost several games they had in the bag, and were blown out. The defense either left wide receivers completely open or were gouged to death by not being able to stop the run. When Watson returned, the offense has completely tanked.
Where do the Browns stand on keeping Stefanski? Or is it a given that he will be retained despite the decline in the past two years?
Here at DBN, we offer our debate on the subject: Retain Stefanski, or fire him?
DBN Staff Writer
I mean what are we even doing here? Granted Stefanski is not perfect, but who is as a head coach? Does anyone else notice that Bill Belichick is suddenly mortal as a head coach now? I had an interesting back-and-forth with Anthony Lima on Twitter over the weekend as he was praising Kyle Shanahan as a head coach. When I pointed out that Shanahan is two games over .500 as a head coach it was suddenly a defense of injuries, QBs, etc. My larger point is that no coach is free from the ups and downs of the NFL.
Stefanski has been good. He needs to get better in some areas, mainly getting this team more disciplined; some of the cutesy stuff needs to hit the cutting room floor, but he is a good head coach. For a franchise that looked high and low for YEARS to find anyone remotely competent, are we really thinking of changing guard again here?
Stefanski gets not one, but TWO full years with Watson as his full-time starter. Let’s stop being silly and let this breathe a bit.
Administrator: BFO Browns Fans Only
I think we stay with Stefanski, and here’s why. Yes he’s still calling plays, but I’ve seen a lot of head coaches on the sidelines calling plays. Are they calling the whole game? I don’t know, but I’ve seen it from the younger coaches. Stefanski will get into his rhythm with Watson and it will take some time. I want to believe so badly that Watson could just return and he’d be the same Watson like nothing had changed - but it did. He was out for 700 days and his offense changed, his coaches changed, everything in his world changed. We have got to look at these next few games like preseason.
#Browns Kevin Stefanski will keep the offensive staff the same and feels they have enough of a diverse skillset to maximize Deshaun Watson’s abilities. He’ll still call the plays.— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) March 28, 2022
We have nothing to lose now, so Stefanski can throw anything at anyone and see what’s going to work. I have always believed this is a TEAM sport, so even if a play is called, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work that way on the field and the players have to improvise - that’s not on the coach.
Our players need an attitude adjustment in a positive way! Stefanski does need to make sure that everyone still supports him though and calling for his job after every loss, is not the way. I believe in this coach, I believe in this team, and I believe we will make our run. But for now, it’s time to practice and see what works and prepare for next season, with Stefanski, and Alex Van Pelt, and Joe Woods.
DBN Staff Writer
I am in one million percent vehement opposition to even entertain the notion of replacing Stefanski at this time or after the season. If 2023 turns into a clunker maybe let’s talk about it. But getting in that lane right now when EVERYONE should have known what a challenge this season was going to be well before it started just smacks of entitled fan-crying to me, and I don’t have the patience for it.
We have messed around with firing people after five minutes only to have their (equally time-limited) replacements fare much worse. We FINALLY, after years of fiddling around with replacing everyone every other year have something we can build around. I’ll be damned if I’ll join the chorus of people wanting to screw that up because they’re mad the season didn’t go how they wanted it - despite the fact that the every available bit of data SHOULD HAVE told them it was going to be a tough slog this year.
As you can see I don’t have much respect for that point of view - even if I do respect and love people that may hold it. But I cannot be anything other than honest about the way I think about this.
Vice President: Navarre Beach Browns Backers
The Browns should absolutely fire Kevin Stefanski. He is clueless. His play calling is atrocious, game management and clock management are a joke while handling players and rotations make no sense. Week in and week out he says we need to learn from this and that and grow, but the same mistakes are made week after week.
Stefanski thinks he is cute with his play calling but it fails nine times out of 10. He hides behind his giant Denny’s menu and gets out-coached week after week. I am not a Baker Bro, but his handling of Baker’s injury was wrong and ruined the season last year. As the coach, you need to have the stones to sit him down. We paid backup QB Case Keenum for a reason.
And he makes absolutely zero in-game adjustments. The Browns score the first drive of the game, the other side adapts and adjusts and we don’t score again until we are down multiple scores.
How Joe Woods still has a job is beyond me - and Priefer needs to go as well. I am not a fan of firing coach after coach either. I believe you need time to establish yourself but ole Kevin is regressing game-by-game. It feels like he just gets worse. The team is undisciplined and unmotivated. That comes from coaching. He is too passive and needs to go!
Why do we never have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield at the same time? Why do you bring Jacoby in on fourth-and-one and throw the ball 35-yards when he hadn’t thrown a pass in two weeks? Why do you still give Anthony Schwartz any playing time at all? Why week-after-week on third-and-10 do the Browns throw 4-6 yard passes?
Kevin Stefanski set the tone today when we needed 1 yard so he put the backup QB in to launch an overthrow into the endzone while leaving the best RB on the bench #clevelandbrowns— sal calanni (@salcalanni) December 11, 2022
Why doesn’t Stefanski give up play calling when the entire City of Cleveland is begging to give these duties to OC Alex Van Pelt?
I could go on-and-on. If you think this bum needs to keep his job come on over to Navarre Beach Browns Backers in Navarre, Florida and please let me hear your explanation and I will buy you a beer! Stefanski needs to go. The Factory of Sadness continues….there is always next year Browns fans! As always - Go Browns!
DBN Staff Writer
The Browns under Stefanski, on paper, were supposed to be this offensive juggernaut. Look at all the weapons he has had at his disposal the past two seasons: Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt, Amari Cooper, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Odell Beckham, Jr., Nick Chubb, Donovan Peoples-Jones, D’Ernest Johnson, Rashard Higgins, Harrison Bryant, Anthony Schwartz, and David Bell. Plus Baker Mayfield, Jacoby Brissett and Deshaun Watson.
The offensive line sports two Pro Bowlers in Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller, plus All-Pro tackle Jack Conklin. Not to mention the game’s best offensive line coach in Bill Callahan.
What has happened? Why is this group great one game and horrible the next?
Why does this club have one of the best running backs in the league and then only run him six times in the first half or bench him because he fumbled? How can Cleveland take a Two-Time Pro Bowl tight end (Hooper) and suddenly make him vanilla? Why do they have an NFL rushing champion (Hunt) who barely plays? Why couldn’t this offense get the ball to Three-Time Pro Bowler OBJ? Why draft an Olympic track star (Schwartz) with a valuable third-round pick yet not use him for his speed? How do you take an All-American and Big 10 Receiver of the Year (Bell) and throw him only two passes a game?
Stefanski doesn’t know how to adjust in-game. How many games were lost due to inadequate play calling? This is an aspect of the game he should have given up last year and be the game manager instead. Certainly he can have input, but he is in way over his head. He rarely fools any defense with his “magnificent yet oh-so predictable plays.”
Me watching Kevin Stefanski’s play calling abilities pic.twitter.com/VDyS5hVh03— Colton Steiner™ ️ (@s_colton) December 11, 2022
Cleveland scripts the first 15 plays and has done very well in opening drives. But when the game rolls along and the action becomes in the moment, there aren’t many adjustments made and panic mode begins.
And the need to go for it on fourth downs has killed this club. The Browns drafted a strong-legged kicker and yes, has had his issues being a rookie. But going for it and being stonewalled, versus the opportunity to score three points does not make much sense. Two field goals equal the same as a touchdown. Being stopped nets zero.
Absolutely looney to keep going for it on fourth down. Currently, Cleveland has the fourth-worst conversion on fourth-down attempts going 12-of-33. And yet against Cincinnati, they went for it six times.
But the largest concern with the Browns isn’t necessarily the play calls. It goes deeper than that.
There is the defense. DC Joe Woods is offering up terrible schemes which is obvious any opponent’s offense tested and is an obvious casualty. Cleveland played several horrible running teams yet made household names out of their running backs after playing us.
Tackling is horrible and the tackling techniques are even worse. The Browns either use a forearm, grab at the waist, tackle shoulder pads and ride them for extra yards, hand grab at jerseys, or just don’t attempt to tackle. Pick one and you will see it every game. This is frustrating.
Often the secondary is not ready to play and out-of-position. How many wide-ass open receivers can you count this year? This past game against Cincinnati was an example so this aspect of the defense was not fixed. What week is it now?
Ja'Marr Chase gets a hilarious amount of cushion pic.twitter.com/3KvPrgpVtn— Mike (@bengals_sans) December 12, 2022
Answer this: Why is there always a large buffer zone between their receiver and the Browns’ secondary? Put a pin on this for most third downs. When you employ several blitz packages and couple it with man-to-man coverage, this usually works. Cleveland has capable secondary members with Two Time Pro Bowler Denzel Ward, first-round pick Greg Newsome, and this year’s sensation M.J. Emerson. Yet, this defense constantly offers a cushion.
Is there even any sort of accountability on this defense? Woods apparently sends the message that there isn’t any and that any player can be horrible at what they do to which there is no threat of being replaced.
Another issue is the lack of discipline. Penalties have plagued this team which has resulted in drives by the opponent and given the continued opportunity to score - which they have repeatedly. How many times have we seen players airing out their grievances to the media to call out other players and even coaches? Is that not an indication that the leadership of this franchise can be questioned?
And then there is the issue of improvement. Punter, kicker and long snapper? Yes. Secondary? At times. Defensive tackle? Negative. Simply go down the list and you will be surprised at what you find.
No doubt Stefanski is a smart man. Perhaps he is overwhelmed with the play calling during games that he has become a below-average game-day coach.
There is evidence that GM Andrew Berry has provided enough talent to field a competitive team. But under Stefanski, it’s been all about one thing: Underperforming.
Stefanski doesn’t inspire this roster - nor the fans. And when you ax the head coach, every other coach on the staff is also let go. This would take care of Woods, who is an obvious casualty, and also special teams coach Mike Priefer. If the next coach is smart, he will retain Callahan and RB coach Stump Mitchell. But what to do about Woods and Priefer solves itself when you let Stefanski go.
Do this simple task: Take a realistic view of each position group and explain how that unit has improved.
The Mr. Deacon Experience Browns podcast
Stefanski has been around the league since 2006 under Head Coach Brad Childress in Minnesota. He has worked with quarterbacks Brett Favre, Christian Ponder, Keenum and Kirk Cousins during his Vikings tenure. There is no doubt, this man has found a high level of success in the NFL.
I believe at the time of his hiring Stefanski was worthy to be the head coach of the Browns. Notice, I said head coach and not the offensive coordinator nor play caller. I think he can withstand the obstacles of criticism if he relinquishes those extra duties and focus on the team.
Getting rid of Stefanski due to his Ivy League background and his “I’m the smartest man in the room mentality” coupled with his stubbornness, and inability to adapt plus overcome in critical situations - mainly on fourth downs. Where the logical choice should have been to kick a field goal and come away with some type of points, seems to escape his thought process.
Who is really pulling the strings in the offensive board room? I doubt that Stefanski has the leadership ability to lead this team to another playoff run. After all, he wasn’t there for the Browns’ playoff win in 2020 anyway. Why should he get the credit?
Stefanski does not know what the word “survival” means. His analytical approach to coaching and the lack of situational play calling, combined with his obvious lack of trust in certain players and personnel is astonishing. This is why he should be fired.