Coaches Corner: Inexcusable Kevin Stefanski play calls lead to another loss

Browns, Kevin Stefanski. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)
Browns, Kevin Stefanski. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski yet again makes some play calls that leave us all scratching our heads wondering what to expect next

You know the drill. Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski makes another inexcusable bad play call, usually on a fourth down play, and then talks about the frustrating loss and how he and his team have to be better.

However, with this latest batch of bad play calls, his team has now been eliminated from the playoff picture with two weeks still to go in the regular season. During his rookie season, Stefanski was the talk of the town for many good reasons because his team then went 11-5 and won a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, the tables have turned dramatically over the last two years, and he’ll be lucky to have a job with the team next fall.

While indications from various sources close to the team suggest that Stefanski is safe going into 2023, he continues to baffle the masses with his play calling. Not only that but his mighty offense has been stuck in the mud for most of the season.

Even with the return of Deshaun Watson, Cleveland has struggled to score points. They managed just 10 in the loss to the New Orleans Saints on Saturday. So, what were some of these bad play calls? Let’s look at a few of the most questionable plays on the day.

Kevin Stefanski blunder: 4th and 2 play in the fourth quarter

It was midway through the fourth quarter and the Browns were trailing 17-10. They got the ball at their own 10-yard line with a little over nine and a half minutes left.

They got a big chunk of yards from running back Nick Chubb who went for19 yards and then got another eight on the next two plays. It was a third and two and the Browns threw a pass at their own 39-yard line that went incomplete.

Stefanski then decided to go for it. He didn’t bring in his fourth down short-yardage specialist in quarterback Jacoby Brissett to run a quarterback sneak, but instead, he stuck with Watson. In another questionable call, Stefanski had Watson drop back and try a 25-yard pass play going down the sideline that went incomplete.

With the weather conditions being so brutally cold and windy trying to throw a deep pass seemed a bit odd at the moment. The Browns could have punted the ball away and put the Saints in poor field position. In the end, the play didn’t hurt the Browns as far as field position because they were able to get the ball back a couple of minutes later but the call itself had many shaking their heads.

Kevin Stefanski blunder: The final drive

Cleveland got the ball back at their own 20-yard line with just over five minutes to play. They mounted a good drive that took them all the way down to the Saints’ 15-yard line — but that’s where the promising drive ended.

After the Browns took the game down to the two-minute warning, Stefanski started using his three time-outs. He used his first after Watson was sacked for a loss of three yards. Then he took his second timeout after wide receiver Amari Cooper caught a 14-yard pass down to the Saints’ 33-yard line.

On the next play, Watson connected with wide receiver David Bell down to the New Orleans 15-yard line and there were 43 seconds left. Stefanski again called a time-out, his third and final of the half.

This last timeout is where I have question marks on the coach’s decision. On one hand, you don’t want to make mistakes at this stage of the game and Stefanski probably wanted to play it safe. On the other hand, the Browns were now without a timeout and limited their opportunities.

On the next three plays, Watson threw passes that went incomplete. The first one was just a bad throw by Watson. The second pass was lofted up for wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones who had a shot at the catch but dropped it going out of the back corner of the end zone.

The third pass was a perfect dart to tight end David Njoku who simply dropped it ruining a sure touchdown to tie the game.

Then on the fourth down attempt, Watson scrambled around for a bit eventually getting sacked by the New Orleans defense after the Browns’ wide receivers couldn’t get open. The fact that the Browns had run out of timeouts before such a critical play in the game again made the use of all three timeouts on three plays in a row all the more difficult to comprehend.

One of the main storylines this year has been Stefanski’s inconsistency in playcalling and taking unnecessary risks — which was on full display in this game. His teams have been increasingly inconsistent this year and that’s not a good sign of things to come.

With little to play for, I don’t see his players trying to rise to the occasion and supporting their coach who is being questioned a lot these days.