No matter what the Cleveland Browns do, head coach Kevin Stefanski is damned if he does and damned if doesn't.
Stefanski has been at the helm of the Browns since the 2020 season and has a record of 30-27 in that span, which is easily the best mark and highest win total since the franchise returned in 1999.
Each and every week, there is for whatever reason, a debate among fans on social media in regard to whether or not Stefanski is the problem. Well, I am here to tell you that he is, in fact, not the problem in Cleveland.
Whenever the Browns are not victorious, the pitchforks come out, and the endless drivel into the abyss with think pieces on why the loss falls on Stefanski.
Yes, he is the head coach and a good portion of the blame should go to him, but only when it's warranted. At the end of the day, no matter what play is called into the helmet of the quarterback, the players on the field have to execute.
A lot of upset fans tend to overlook this aspect of the game, and need to find a scapegoat, which is typically Stefanski. If a play is called and it's not the exact play you had drawn up in your head from the comfort of your recliner, that doesn't equate to a bad play call.
For example, this past Sunday in Seattle, up three points with two minutes remaining and a third-and-three, Stefanski called a timeout and then called a pass play. P.J. Walker had his pass carrom into the helmet of a defender, popping the ball up in the air for safety Jamal Adams came down with the rock setting up Seattle for a game-winning drive.
"Run the damn ball, Kevin" is a line that has been used ad nauseam over the past three-plus years seasons and it yet again made an appearance on Sunday. You can debate with whoever you want about whether or not Stefanski should've called a run or pass play, but the one he went with was the correct call, had it been executed, as there were three wide-open receivers.
Stefanski is still waiting for his franchise quarterback
The Browns have been in quarterback purgatory since 1999 and seemingly are still in it. We will circle back to Deshaun Watson in just a minute, but here is a list of the quarterbacks that Stefanski has had at his dispoal since being hired as the head coach in 2020:
Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Nick Mullens, Jacoby Brissett, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and Walker. That's the list. What on earth is he supposed to do with that cast of QBs, even when he dials up the right play, but it wasn't exectuted due to incompetent play from the most important position in all of team sports?
"Run the damn ball, Kevin!"
That sounds all fine and dandy until you think about the fact that this team has sorely missed Nick Chubb since his injury in Week 2 and opposing defenses have forced DTR and Walker to beat them. To his credit, Walker has led two game-winning drives but also had the costly pick in Seattle.
Thompson-Robinson looked lost in his first NFL start in Week 4 against the Ravens, but to be fair to him, and even more so Stefanski, Watson was ruled out of the game at 10:30 AM, two-and-a-half hours prior to kickoff. The coach thought Watson was playing and so did the latter, but that was not the case.
Cleveland traded a king's ransom in order to acquire Watson, yet even with him on the roster, this team still has major questions about the quarterback position. Watson injured his right, throwing shoulder back in Week 3 and has been sidelined for all of three minutes since.
Watson is listed as day-to-day and week-to-week — which is the new "I have to watch the film" or "Josh Gordon could return to the team" — and it is maddening. The Browns traded for what they viewed as their franchise quarterback, and thus far, it has been a nightmare.
So again, what is Stefanski supposed to do with Walker or DTR under center until Watson is good to play? Should Andrew Berry get the same dosage of criticism for not having a viable, veteran backup QB on the roster?
Many fans wanted Berry to make a trade to bring Brissett back, and he made an offer, but Washington declined.
Another funny thing is the fact that some decided Stefanski didn't do enough to warrant credit for wins, but instead that should go to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. So let's flip the blame game from Sunday.
It was the defense of Schwartz that folded when it mattered most. Sure, the Seahawks benefitted from the interception, setting them up at their own 43, but they still marched 57 yards for the win. After giving up 17 first-half points, the defense held up its end, until the game was on the line.
Yet, it was Stefanski that the pitchforks were raised towards, and not Schwartz. Funny how that works, isn't it?
At the end of the day, this team is 4-3 and currently sits in the seventh and final playoff spot, and are an above average quarterback away from being a legitimate contender. Watson could help that, whenever he sees the field again.
With all that said Stefanski is not the problem in Cleveland and the sky is far from falling.