Naming Alex Van Pelt the Cleveland Browns play-caller would be the safe approach.
One of the reasons the Cleveland Browns hired Kevin Stefanski to be the new head coach this offseason was because of the offensive system he would bring. Now eight months later, it remains to be seen if it will be Stefanski calling the plays in 2020.
After hiring Alex Van Pelt this offseason, it became a debate of if it will be Stefanski or Van Pelt with the call-sheet on game days. The two coaches were planning on ironing out the issue during the preseason, but those plans have changed.
Stefanski planned on allowing Van Pelt to call plays during the preseason. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no preseason games for Stefanski to test Van Pelt as the play-caller and instead will have to rely on how Van Pelt handles the role during training camp.
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Even without the preseason games to test Van Pelt as the play-caller, Stefanski should still hand the reins to Van Pelt for the 2020 season. It may be viewed as an odd decision, but it could prove to be the safest approach.
Although it is Stefanski’s offense, he will now have to manage the balance of being a head coach instead of focusing purely on the offensive side of the ball. For a first-year head coach, finding the balance of managing the entire roster and game management is challenging in and of itself. Add in the possibility of trying to call plays as well, and it becomes an extreme challenge for being a rookie head coach.
It also should be pointed out that Stefanski is not the most experienced play-caller. Stefanski has only called plays for 19 regular season games, as 2019 was the first full season he has called plays. For a head coach with limited play-calling experience, adding more tasks could prove to be too much.
Add in the fact Stefanski has not had any offseason workouts or mini-camps to start to find a balance between being a play-caller and head coaching tasks, trying to do it all for the first time during the regular season could end up being extremely overwhelming. Instead, Stefanski should take the safe approach and allow Van Pelt to call plays.
Van Pelt has roughly the same amount of play-calling experience, although his one season of calling plays was all the way back in 2009. Even though it may have been a long time, Van Pelt has an idea of what it takes to be a play-caller.
The offensive coordinator will also have more time working directly with Baker Mayfield. Mayfield is going to become comfortable with certain aspects of the playbook instead of other pieces of the playbook. Since Van Pelt will be working with Mayfield frequently, he will know more about what works for Mayfield than Stefanski will.
Van Pelt may not have had any on-field time to get a feel for Stefanski’s system, but he will have certainly worked with Stefanski during the virtual offseason to gain an understanding of the playbook and the sequencing of the system.
Even if he isn’t the play-caller, Stefanski will certainly have input into the game plan during the week. Working with Van Pelt to settle the game plan may be all that Stefanski needs to be confident in Van Pelt calling plays.
It may be Stefanski’s system, but based on how this offseason has gone, it would make a lot of sense for Van Pelt to be the offensive play-caller. He may not get any practice runs outside of training camp as the play-caller, but Van Pelt should handle the game sheet on Sunday’s.