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Good not great? Defending Browns HC Kevin Stefanski

After Browns vs 49ers, Stefanski prepares his team for Browns vs Colts but needs defending?!

San Francisco 49ers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

“Picks up the soapbox, walks over to a not-so-crowded corner, puts the soapbox down and climbs on top of it.” As long as I have been watching the Cleveland Browns, I have seen my fair share of ineptitude at the head coaching position. Whether it was former head coaches Hue Jackson, Mike Chudzinski or Freddie Kitchens, this town has seen a fair share of below-average coaches come through Northeast Ohio.

After spending most of his coaching career with the Minnesota Vikings, Kevin Stefanski was hired as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 2020. The reaction to the hire was a combination of shock, surprise, outrage, and optimism.

In his first year, granted it was a COVID year, he led the Browns to an 11-5 record in the AFC which earned the team a playoff berth. He somewhat saved Baker Mayfield’s career from going in the wrong direction and won Coach of the Year. The following season, the team went 8-9 but it was due to the unreliable play at the quarterback position including a major injury to Mayfield.

In 2022, the team went 7-10 due to the star quarterback Deshaun Watson missing over half the season due to his suspension and the defense underperforming.

This past Sunday in one of the biggest games of his career, Stefanski outcoached San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan (who is responsible for taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2019, and back-to-back NFC Championship games) in an upset victory in which the Browns were double-digit underdogs leading up to the game.

Cleveland was missing quarterback Deshaun Watson, running back Nick Chubb, and offensive linemen Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin and somehow Cleveland found a way to pull off a win. One of the biggest wins for this team in quite some time and there are a small minority of people who want him fired.

I’m going to say this once and only once (Editor’s Note: We might say it again and again), Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski isn’t as bad of a coach as people think he is.

He’s good, not great but he’s good.

It is fair to have criticisms of a head coach, but most of the criticisms towards him are either ridiculous or flat-out asinine. Or both. The best thing about the NFL is that you can get outside perspectives from different outlets and analysts. Enter former quarterback and current NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky:

In the video, Orlovsky praised the offensive play calling by Stefanski by using 4 plays to make his point. Orlovsky later followed it up with saying that the Cleveland Browns are a well-coached team. Let me repeat that. Dan Orlovsky (who despite his abnormal food takes is respected in terms of his analysis) said that the Cleveland Browns are a well-coached team.

In terms of Kevin’s playcalling, many fans want him to give up play-calling duties but there is an old saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Allow me to show you the numbers for Cleveland’s offense during Stefanski’s tenure.

  • 2020: 10th in Offensive EPA/Per play
  • 2021: 18th in Offensive EPA/per play
  • 2022: 12th in Offensive EPA/per play

Outside of 2021, the Browns have been a top 10 or 15 offense in terms of efficiency with Stefanski. His play-calling can be questionable at times, and he tends to not utilize his players perfectly but that shouldn’t take away from what the results show.

Mayfield was a top-12 quarterback in terms of efficiency in Cleveland, and Stefanski deserves credit for helping Baker realize what he was and helping him.

Fast forward to this past Sunday against the 49ers, late in the 4th quarter Cleveland decided to call a pass play on 2nd and 9 deep in Niners territory. Walker almost threw an interception on the play and he admitted that he shouldn’t have done that. The 49ers had the play covered well and Walker should have run the ball instead of throwing into coverage. People criticized Stefanski for the play-call (rightfully so) but it wasn’t executed properly, that was the problem.

After the win, there is a small minority (albeit the loudest ones) who will find ways to not give Stefanski any credit for helping this team get a huge win that could possibly alter the outlook of their season. It’s gotten to the point that people are saying Kevin should still be fired despite winning one of the biggest games of his career. I’m tired.

Thankfully, there are a number of smart people on social media as well:

There is no such thing as a perfect head coach, every coach has their flaws but Stefanski isn’t perfect.

Is he elite? No.

Is he capable of doing what he needs to do? Absolutely.

Stefanski isn’t some inept head coach who doesn’t know how to coach a football team (I’ve seen plenty of ineptitude this season and Stefanski isn’t in that group).

Look around the NFL right now. the Denver Broncos are 1-5 right now with Sean Payton and that team looks like a complete mess. The Las Vegas Raiders are 3-3 with Josh McDaniels leading the team but everyone knows that team isn’t a well-coached team.

Do I even need to bring up the New York Giants with head coach Brian Daboll?

Stefanski outcoached Shanahan on Sunday despite missing multiple key players on offense, schemed up a good game plan with a quarterback who would’ve won the MVP of the XFL in 2020 if COVID didn’t happen, and people want him gone.

It doesn’t make any sense to me. Cleveland has had their fair share of ineptitude at the head coaching position, but Stefanski is not inept. He’s good, not great. Can he take this team where they need to go? He got the team to the playoffs in 2020. Cleveland has a talented team and they are coming off a huge win against one of the best teams in the NFL. Give him credit and stop with the unnecessary hate.

“Steps off of the soapbox and picks it up and walks away.” I also leave you with this:

Your turn to jump on a soapbox about Stefanski in the comment section. Do you agree with Curtiss and Tony Lima or?