Installing a new system in 2020 could hurt the Cleveland Browns
Installing a new scheme is never easy. The Cleveland Browns know this all too well as they are now on their 12th head coach (counting interim) since returning to the NFL in 1999.
Out of those 12 coaches, only three made it through more than two full seasons as Butch Davis coached 58 games, Romeo Crennel was there for 64, and Hue Jackson received 40 games to prove himself.
In short, the only constant in Cleveland has been change.
That’s true once again in 2020 as Kevin Stefanski comes in with a whole new offensive and defensive staff which is expected to shake things up for the Browns. The problem is, we’re entering July and Stefanski and his staff have yet to get to any real work with the players.
The rookie head coach recently met with members of the media and spoke on how the virtual offseason program has gone. Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, teams are having to find new ways to work with their players and it’s not even an argument that these virtual meetings won’t have the same effect as the OTAs and mini camps would.
Still, it’s the reality we live in and the Browns are doing the best they can with it — although, it does leave them at a disadvantage.
How does the virtual offseason hurt Cleveland?
The Browns were one of five teams to switch head coaches this offseason as Ron Rivera is taking over in Washington, Joe Judge with the New York Giants, Mike McCarthy with the Dallas Cowboys, and Matt Rhule with the Carolina Panthers. Of those teams, only the Cowboys will have some similarity as they retained offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
However, their defensive staff is changing meaning they face the same issues the rest of the teams with big changes are trying to figure out — how to teach a new system when face-to-face meetings and practices are unavailable.
Practice reps are key to a successful season and in Cleveland, none of these players have worked under Kevin Stefanski — well, except backup quarterback Case Keenum. They also haven’t spent time learning Joe Woods’ defensive scheme.
This puts them at a disadvantage over teams who are coming into the season with the same system they ran in 2019.
While there’s some truth that teams who are in the midst of a change are behind the eight-ball every season, this year will be especially hard for the Browns as they’re being forced to make this overhaul in some uncertain times.
None of this means they won’t be successful but we also shouldn’t expect a finished product too early either. The Browns are going to need time to iron out their wrinkles and the longer they have to wait, the harder that will be to do.