Even without Browns playing, Kevin Stefanski was proven right for play calling tendencies
By Randy Gurzi
Kevin Stefanski has been heavily criticized for his play-calling this season but the Browns head coach was proven right even though they were on a bye in Week 9
There’s never a shortage of opinions among fans and this season, those who follow the Cleveland Browns have been very vocal when it comes to criticism of head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Primary among the concerns is the third-year coach’s play-calling. Stefanski, one of the brighter offensive minds in the NFL, tends to get away from the run and try to find a rhythm in the passing game. When this happens and it works, everyone is happy. When it doesn’t work, there’s an outcry for more handoffs to Nick Chubb.
Thankfully, Stefanski doesn’t answer to the fans. That goes for all coaches who understand that listening to the vocal outrage would cause them to be out of a job — which was famously stated by Joe Kuharich in 1967 when he was coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.
"“If you listen to the fans, you’ll find yourself sitting with them.”"
Those who want Stefanski to continue to run the ball into stacked boxes fail to recognize a couple of things. One, recent teams have only been able to win consistently when they’re effective through the air. Two, teams around the league can shut down the run, even with subpar defense, if there’s no passing attack to force them to back off.
Browns strategy proven correct during the bye week
For proof of the second point, all you needed to do was tune in to the Tennessee Titans game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football in Week 10. Derrick Henry went off in the first half of that game with 92 yards and two touchdowns. Then in the second half, he managed a mere 23 yards and finished with 115. Even worse, his team fell 20-17 in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs.
So what changed? Simple — the Chiefs sold out on the run and dared Tennessee to pass. The result was 22 total yards on offense in the second half while going 0-for-8 on third downs.
There will be those who say that was due to Malik Willis being a rookie but we saw this time and again with Cleveland when Baker Mayfield couldn’t move the ball through the air. The same thing happened when New England beat the Browns 38-15 this season due to Jacoby Brissett being off with his passes.
Defenses have a game plan too. They don’t simply line up and hope the offense has a bad game. They have coordinators who make millions of dollars per year that come up with ways to take away what you do best.
This is why it’s a game of chess, which is what Stefanski is playing. Going out there and trying to play rugby might get you some wins here and there but as the Titans saw, it will come up flat eventually.
Stefanski’s plan is the right one, even if it isn’t always popular.