Don’t be so quick to push Kevin Stefanski out the door
There has been a lot of chatter on whether or not Kevin Stefanski is a good NFL head coach, but don’t be so quick to push him out the door.
For the first time since the return to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns finally have some stability at head coach in third-year guy Kevin Stefanski. However, with that being said, some fans aren’t sold on him as the man to lead this team into the future.
The fact of the matter in regard to Stefanski is the fact that he already has more victories than any other head coach for the Browns since 1999.
Also, regardless of how the final three games play out, he will be the first man heading Cleveland’s football franchise to have a record of .500 or better.
Kevin Stefanski has had success
Stefanski currently sits at 25-22 overall, and can’t get any worse than .500 through his first three seasons. Let’s put some perspective on that. Kyle Shanahan, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers started off his Bay Area head tenure with a 23-25 record. He had one winning season in that time, and he made the most of it by leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl, where they eventually lost to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Sean Payton, the former head coach of the New Orleans Saints, started off 25-23 in his first three seasons. He also had just one winning season in that span. The Saints didn’t panic and it paid off as they won the Super Bowl in Year 4.
Former Browns head coach and current New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick started off his time in Foxboro with a 25-23 record. He was fortunate enough to win a Super Bowl in Year 2, granted he had some guy named Tom Brady as his quarterback. Belichick went on to win five more titles and has had just two losing seasons since his arrival in New England.
The point of all those comparisons is that good teams don’t go through coaching cycles just to do it. They have continuity and eventually, it pans out for the better. Cleveland has been searching for a viable, consistent head coach for the better part of two decades and has seemingly found their guy.
Quarterback Play Matters
In his 47-career games as an NFL head coach, Stefanski has had one franchise quarterback to use in his offense. Now, Deshaun Watson is said franchise quarterback, but his first start with Stefanski and the Browns came in Week 13 after a 700 layoff from playing in the NFL. So obviously, there will be some rust to work out and that’s what the final six games of this season were always designed to do.
Baker Mayfield was drafted first overall back in 2018 and had some glimmers of success, but his best year came in 2020, the first year Stefanski was the head coach. Mayfield didn’t pan out in Cleveland, but in that 2020 season, Stefanski put him in position to be a top-10 caliber NFL QB. Injuries and a lack of focus derailed any momentum Baker and the Browns brought from 2020 to 2021 and he was eventually shipped off to Carolina.
For the first 11 games of this season, while Watson was sidelined due to suspension, Jacoby Brissett was the man under center. A perennial backup quarterback, but Stefanski put him in position to thrive in his offense, and in turn, the Browns had a top-10 offense for the majority of Brissett’s starts.
The Watson Trade was Always Designed for 2023 and Beyond
When the Browns made the blockbuster trade to acquire Watson, and give him the highest guaranteed contract in NFL history, it was never meant to be an instant success. Cleveland’s front office knew there was likely going to be a suspension, just nobody knew how long that would be. Initially, it was six games, but after an appeal, it got bumped up to 11.
While the Browns were all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, that was never the big-picture plan for this season. Instead, the team can finish with a winning record for the second time in three seasons, and build off that heading to 2023 where Watson should be under center for the duration of the season.
The Browns were likely to always give Stefanski a full season with Watson regardless of his this season may have gone. What’s ironic is there are many people on Browns’ Twitter who criticize every decision Stefanski makes in losses, but fail to give him praise when the team wins. Make it make sense.
Some have questioned Stefanski’s leadership, but if Saturday’s victory over the Ravens was any indication, it appears that his players still buy into what he is preaching. He isn’t the most animated guy and gives vanilla answers every week, but those things don’t disqualify him as a leader.
If you are of the mindset that Stefanski isn’t the guy, reply below, hit me up on Twitter (@KingEdward15), or tag the site (@dawgpounddaily) and sound off on who you think would be a better fit and give your reasoning.
Kevin Stefanski has proven he is a good NFL head coach through his first 47 games, so don’t be so quick to push him out the door, as we’ve all seen how we fare in the head coach search.