The Cleveland Browns came off their bye week making several significant changes. An important change was the way head coach Kevin Stefanski made decisions.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has taken a lot of heat recently for uninspired play and lack of discipline of the team over the bye week.
But against the Ravens, he was able to make several good decisions to put his team in a position to succeed.
Three coaching decisions stood out more than others. These three decisions shaped the course of the game for the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Cleveland Browns coaching: The Good
The one good decision actually turned out to be two good decisions. But for sake of reading ease, we will just pretend it was one.
First, Stefanski stayed in a lot of 13 personnel. But he used different players in those roles. It was almost as if he read my article last week suggesting this as a good way to get more players involved.
He came out in different personnel but lined players up as tight ends, full backs and wide receivers then shifted them into different positions. This confused the Baltimore Ravens defense on a couple of occasions.
I personally enjoyed seeing offensive lineman Blake Hance line up at fullback only to shift to tight end as an extra lineman. We also saw running back Nick Chubb line up at tight end only to shift out to wide receiver. It is this type of creativity that can break formation and play tendencies.
Second, Stefanski severely dialed back the play-calling aggressiveness that plagued the Browns earlier in the season. By aggressiveness, I am referring to the going for it on 4th down that has resulted in losing the ball, points, and momentum.
Instead, Stefanski broke his analytic tendencies by punting and kicking field goals instead of going for it. The result was a smooth operation offensively that gained momentum and kept it. But this leads to the bad decisions.
Cleveland Browns coaching: The Bad
For whatever reason, the Browns coaches take their foot off the gas when up big. This has led to a loss of momentum and almost led to a loss of the game on Sunday.
Finishing games with a killer instinct is not a strength of the Browns. The offense stops running bootlegs and misdirection. The defense plays off looking to not give up the big play. This deadly combination has led to many a potential comeback against a Stefanski-led Browns.
This past Sunday, the Browns came out conservative on play calling on both sides of the ball. The result was a well-defended pass away from a last-second loss. Maybe it is time to let the dawgs out and finish somebody.
Cleveland Browns coaching: The Ugly
The ugly decision is not so much a bad decision on Stefanski’s part but a good one on the part of Ravens head coach Jim Harbaugh. How many times have we seen the Browns get down big and start throwing the ball all over the yard? How many times do they abandon their identity to get back into a game?
Guess what, the Ravens did not only throw the ball all over the yard, but they also doubled down on their identity as a running team who throws off play-action. The result? They almost beat the Browns after being down 21 points. That was an ugly decision for the Browns, who played off expecting the Ravens to pass.
I hope someone was taking notes for Stefanski on this one. When down big, screw analytics. Instead, double down on your identity, be who you are and a comeback is more likely to happen. Harbaugh’s decision is one of the best decisions a coach can make.
It is time for Stefanski to start doing the same. Win or lose within yourself. Don’t become someone you are not because the analytics say you should. Sometimes the head coach does not need to listen to statheads.