Cleveland Browns have a serious problem with Kevin Stefanski
The Cleveland Browns are 2-4 and while there are plenty of people to blame, Kevin Stefanski will receive the bulk of the finger pointing
Kevin Stefanski burst onto the scene in 2020 as the Cleveland Browns head coach. His first season ended with an 11-5 record in the regular season and a win in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Stefanski was rewarded with the NFL Head Coach of the Year award for his work and the future seemed bright. But then, things digressed in season two,
Cleveland struggled with efficiency all year and stumbled their way to an 8-9 campaign. Following that frustration, they made some huge changes, including going after Deshaun Watson as their new quarterback.
In addition to the massive PR hit they took for being willing to give Watson a home, they also had to navigate 11 games with him on the sideline due to a suspension. Early on, it appeared Stefanski and the Browns would be fine as Jacoby Brissett was playing well in place of Watson. However, things have fallen off quickly with Brissett, who was awful in a Week 6 loss to the Patriots.
Now on the heels of a three-game losing streak, Cleveland is about to face some elite talent with Baltimore, Cincinnati, Miami, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay all coming up. Should they struggle with the majority of those teams, which is likely, the criticism hurled at Stefanski will be at an all-time high.
What Stefanski has done well for the Browns
Before diving into what Stefanski has to improve upon, let’s look at what he’s done well. Through six games, his offense has been much more efficient than expected. Despite playing with a reserve quarterback and questionable wide receiver talent, Stefanski has them averaging 24.7 points per game.
They continue to run the ball well thanks to Nick Chubb, who has 649 yards, and they’re finally getting David Njoku involved. The big tight end has 27 receptions for 347 yards so far, which is already approaching the 36 receptions for 475 yards he had a season ago.
As good as all this is, there are a couple of areas where the head coach needs to step things up/
Where Stefanski needs to improve
There’s nothing wrong with being aggressive but you have to know your limitations. Right now, Cleveland’s offense is limited. For that reason, his insistence on attempting fourth-down conversions hasn’t worked out in recent weeks.
The latest example came in Week 6 when they were well within field goal range but elected to try a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one. New England knew this was coming and stuffed it without a problem.
On the year, the Browns are 9-of-15 on fourth-down attempts but in the past two games, they had some terrible attempts that left points on the board. Now, in a 38-15 loss, those three points would have meant very little but they need to be less aggressive with a quarterback who is clearly struggling right now.
Having said that, those concerns are minimal. The real area where Stefanski needs to improve is on defense. While it’s true he’s an offensive-minded coach, he’s also ultimately responsible for the entire organization and right now, the Cleveland defense is a complete mess.
They’ve surrendered 68 points over the past two weeks and have given up at least 30 three times in their first six games — while surrendering 27.2 on the year. What’s worse is that this has been an issue in the past but Stefanski hasn’t done much to address it.
This doesn’t mean the only answer is to fire defensive coordinator Joe Woods but maybe he needs to push harder for a run-stuffing defensive tackle or force Woods to change something up. As it stands now, they seem to continue trying the same approach, and that continues to lead to the same results.
Why this is a real concern for the Browns
One caveat to all of this is that the Browns should have known this could be a lost season. Like it or not, when a team makes a move for a franchise quarterback and he gets suspended for all but six games, expecting smooth sailing would be a mistake.
That might be easy to say, and some might be able to accept it, but there’s one wild card — Jimmy Haslam. The Cleveland owner has never proven to be a patient man and as the cries and boos from the crowd get louder, he might not be willing to wait this thing out — as he should.
Hopefully Haslam can keep from hitting the panic button and allow this regime at least one full season with Watson before blowing it all up. If they have all their pieces and still can’t win, that’s a different story. But for now, things look bad and it could create a problem for Stefanski given Haslam’s history.