Browns defense should get more blame than Kevin Stefanski

Browns, Myles Garrett. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Myles Garrett. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

Coming into the season, it was supposed to be the Browns defense that led the way, but through Week 5, it hasn’t been that. Blame them, not Kevin Stefanski.

First and foremost, Kevin Stefanski will not be fired by the Cleveland Browns, nor should he be either. He has the offense firing on all cylinders with a backup quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, who has played well for the most part. 2022 was never going to be the benchmark year of Stefanski’s tenure in Cleveland as he will only get Deshaun Watson for six games.

Now, next year if the wheels fall off the wagon with Watson starting all 17-games, then maybe there will be a different discussion to be had, but that’s still a relatively long time away.

The Browns offense is the fourth-best in terms of yards per game at 396.4, led by the rushing attack that is averaging an NFL-best 192.4 yards per game. Prior to Sunday Night Football, Cleveland is the sixth-highest-scoring team in the league.

This was supposed to be an 11-game stretch (the length of Watson’s suspension) that was led by the defense while asking Brissett to manage the game better than they had a season ago. That has certainly not been the case thus far and is a big reason this football team isn’t 5-0 right now.

Browns defense isn’t nearly as good as most think

Remember in the offseason when the defense was getting the leader of the team treatment from the fanbase and reporters? Well, through the first five weeks, this defense is a mess and it isn’t as talented as most of us had anticipated.

Littered throughout scoial media you will see people say how bad this defense is playing and it shouldn’t for as much talent is on the roster. There goes that word again.

Myles Garrett is the leader of the defense and is arguably the most vocal, but fails to read the room. After Sunday’s loss, Garrett told reporters that the Chargers “disrespected” the Browns defense and they didn’t take kindly to it.

Well, Mr. Garrett, if you don’t want your team to be “disrespected” as you put it, here is a simple suggestion: Don’t let the opposing team run for 230 yards.

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley felt comfortable going for it on fourth-and-one from their own 46 with 1:13 left and the Browns having no timeouts. That’s because Cleveland was getting gashed all game on the ground, as Austin Ekeler rushed for 173 of the team’s 238 rushing yards. Ironically, it was a pass call on the play that gave the ball back to the home team.

Coming into the game, Los Angeles was the NFL’s worst rushing team. Think about that for just a second. Going from the worst rushing unit to a 238-yard performance. But this team is too talented to be this bad, right?

Jadeveon Clowney, who returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with an ankle injury, had the most blunt take of anyone on the defensive side of the football.

"“Not good. We got the names and the pieces on paper but we got to come out here and put it together… I expect a lot out of this defense. And right now, we ain’t showing up and doing it.”"

That is the most honest answer we as fans could have asked for and is a breath of fresh air compared to the finger-pointing the secondary was doing earlier this season.

Speaking of the secondary, John Johnson III was supposed to be a piece that put this team over the top, but so far, he’s been more bark than bite. On Sunday, he was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. After the game, he revealed what Stefanski had to say to him.

So if the talent isn’t talenting, then surely there is a leader that is stepping up to get this unit fired up, right? Well not according to Jordan Elliott, who was asked if anyone on the defense was getting guys fired up.

Remember the players only meeting the defense held after the Week 2 collapse and how it was supposed to right the ship? What a pipe dream and wake-up call that was. Or maybe it wasn’t as the Cleveland defense has been the part of the team that hasn’t fully delivered.

One area of this team where the general manager has been negligent is the defensive tackle position. It’s not like he had to go out and use a ton of money to get some beefy guys in there who can stop the run and occasionally get home on the quarterback. The team prides itself in being able to run the ball at a high level but does not pride itself in stopping it.

The road ahead gets no easier starting next Sunday when the Patriots come to town. New England averages 138 yards per game on the ground and was seventh prior to the start of Sunday Night Football. Rhamondre Stevenson rumbled for 161 yards on 25 attempts, so he is likely licking his chops looking ahead to next week.

You can be upset with Stefanski for some of the decisions he’s made this season, but the defense deserves far more blame than the head coach does.