Often in life, if you are tasked with deciding between either or the answer is generally closer to both. Sports, like life, is rarely as simple as one decision, one player, one coach or one play. There are times that it is but, in those situations, it is easy to see and almost universal.
For example, the Cleveland Browns should have won the New York Jets game and the Los Angeles Chargers game but even those situations were different. Multiple players or coaches could have done something different in the Jets game while Cade York just had to make a field goal at the end of the Chargers game.
Since it became clear that the Browns were not making the playoffs, fans and media attempted to place the blame simply at the feet of either the players, coaches or front office. With it seeming very clear that GM Andrew Berry isn’t going anywhere, we are left with trying to decipher whether the team believes it was a coaching problem or a player problem.
So far, their lone big choice shows that they at least think the defensive coordinator was a problem. While HC Kevin Stefanski wouldn’t commit to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, he’s still the coach as of Wednesday so he’s likely safe.
Cleveland doesn’t have any major player decisions to make, yet.
Obviously, DE Jadeveon Clowney is unlikely to be back and names that fans know, like Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, Greedy Williams, Anthony Walker Jr., Ethan Pocic and Deion Jones can be free agents but the biggest decision will come with John Johnson III.
There are a lot of details about JJ3’s contract but, simplified, the Browns could save cap space by releasing him with the “post-June 1st” designation. Doing so would push much of Johnson’s cap hit back from this year to the next and save some money overall.
What the team does with Johnson, a player that has underwhelmed since signing in free agency, will be the first tell about where the team places blame. If Johnson is kept and only a couple of changes are made on that side of the ball, Cleveland’s power structure will be telling everyone that they believe the problem was Woods.
If Johnson is let go and/or a significant turnover is made to the roster, specifically on defense and significantly more than a normal offseason, it will be clear that the Browns saw the problems of 2022 as a both/and issue with players and coaching.
Either way, if they don’t get it right in 2023, the decision will likely be made that the ultimate problem is with those who were making the decisions including Berry and Stefanski and, quite possibly, everyone else outside of ownership.
Do you think the Browns will keep JJ3? Do you think the Browns should keep JJ3?