In a desperate attempt to see anything change, Cleveland Browns fans keep asking if Kevin Stefanski will give up play-calling without realizing that would change nothing
It’s a tale as old as time. An NFL team fails to make the playoffs and the fanbase looks everywhere to find fault. And for the second year in a row, those who follow the Cleveland Browns continue to be fixated on the play-calling as they ask whether or not Kevin Stefanski is going to surrender those duties to offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.
As is the case every time that gets asked, it’s been quickly turned down — as it should be. Stefanski was hired by this front office due to his ability to run an offense and he proved in his rookie season that he can get it done.
Still, due to the struggles over the past two years, the question won’t die off and was again sent to Mary Kay Cabot who believes the head coach will continue to call the plays. She points to the relationship between Stefanski and Deshaun Watson as a key reason for her belief.
"“Watson has stated that he came here in part because of Stefanski and that he wholeheartedly believes in him in that role. I think the two will work hard together to tailor the gameplan to Watson’s strengths in the offseason, and will implement a retooled offense in the spring, with more explosive downfield passing, more designed runs, and so much more.” — Cabot on Stefanski calling plays."
Why making a change at play-caller would do nothing for the Browns
MKC is right that the relationship between the coach and quarterback is a key part of the decision to keep Stefanski calling plays. However, that’s also overlooking the fact that there was simply never a decision to make.
Stefanski rose to prominence due to his offensive prowess. He was a key figure in Case Keenum taking the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in 2017 and Kirk Cousins had his best campaign under Stefanski.
The same can be said for both Baker Mayfield and Jacoby Brissett. Mayfield looked like a shell of himself with the Panthers after leaving Cleveland and needed another great offensive mind in Sean McVay to help him salvage some of his reputation.
Brissett, on the other hand, was a journeyman quarterback that couldn’t hold down a job. Now after one season with Stefanski, he could be looking for a starting gig in 2023.
So not only are those who criticize him failing to see what he’s accomplished, but they’re also not realizing that a change would do nothing. Stefanski would still be the one installing the game plan along with Alex Van Pelt. He would then be on the headset with the ability to overrule Van Pelt should he not agree with the calls.
Throw in the fact that Van Pelt was an offensive coordinator just once before his Cleveland tenure — 2009 in Buffalo — and there’s no guarantee he would be an upgrade. He would just be a different voice calling the same plays.
Execution, not play calls, is what the Browns need
Instead of focusing on the plays, the frustration needs to be on the execution. Stefanski is a risk-taker, and we saw on Saturday night that he’s not the only one. Doug Pederson took plenty of risks for the Jacksonville Jaguars and while they started in the hole 27-0, they pulled off an improbable win.
Pederson didn’t suddenly learn to coach at halftime. Instead, Trevor Lawrence quit throwing interceptions and the plays started to work. The real change was execution from the players.
The same can happen in Cleveland. Many of their losses came down to dropped passes or offensive linemen getting flagged to kill a promising drive. Believe it or not, the coach did not draw up a play where the receiver gets butterfingers. He also didn’t ask for a false start or hold. Those are execution errors on the players. Clean those up, and the narrative is vastly different.
No, Stefanski is not perfect but it’s way too simplistic to say the play calls are bad and a new person would fix it all. It also would be a terrible move to force the coach to give up any duties, as it would create the same issues we saw when Hue Jackson, Todd Haley, and John Dorsey all had constant in-fighting.
With all of that being said, it’s time to move on from this discussion. Stefanski will run this offense once again in 2023 and hopefully, they’ll find success and that will be the case for years to come. But making a change for the sake of changing not only isn’t happening but it shouldn’t.