Leading up to the Cleveland Browns Week 4 showdown with the Baltimore Ravens, there was an expectation that Deshaun Watson would be able to play despite a shoulder injury suffered in Week 3. Then just ahead of the game, head coach Kevin Stefanski said Dorian Thompson-Robinson would get the start.
A fifth-round pick from UCLA, Thompson-Robinson struggled mightily in his first start and that led to a lot of questions. Most of those centered around a confusing game plan from Stefanski where it seemed he called plays as if Watson was still under center.
There were also questions about Watson and his health — and the normally tight-lipped Stefanski actually opened up for once, and it wasn't to defend the franchise quarterback.
Instead, Stefanski answered a solid question from Tony Grossi, saying Watson was medically cleared to play. He added that he knew his body best and made the call to sit.
Perhaps Stefanski was just being honest but it's seen as a potential dig at his quarterback for not toughing it out against a divisional rival. And it seems highly unlikely the calculated Stefanski just happened to speak on this question when he's never had a problem keeping things in-house in the past.
If that wasn't enough, he then used David Njoku as an example of a player toughing it out after an injury. Stefanski called him a "warrior" for playing after suffering burns to his hands and face over the weekend.
If Kevin Stefanski is picking a fight, he won't win it against Deshaun Watson
If there really is an issue going on behind the scenes, there's no way it ends well for the head coach. Cleveland is married to Watson for three more years after 2023. They traded three first-round picks, as well as a third-rounder, and then signed him to a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract.
That means he's going to outlive the coach should the two fail to make it work together. Maybe Stefanski knows this and is trying to save face before taking even more of the blame.
If the Browns start winning, none of this will matter
Cleveland is enjoying a week off and they will then prepare to face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6. That's a daunting task but the Niners aren't unbeatable.
And if the Browns can somehow reel off a win there, or even get on a roll at any point this year, these issues will quickly be forgotten. But if they continue to struggle, the seat will get very hot for Stefanski in no time.