The Browns lost to the Steelers after an embarrassing effort.
If you thought the 12 Days of Christmas song ended after Christmas, boy, are you in for a surprise. Nine sacks, five pass deflections, five drops, two interceptions, and one mind-boggling game plan would be the lyrics that surmised the debacle that was the Browns’ Monday Night showing against the Steelers.
The Browns looked defeated before the first quarter even started on Sunday. They then played just like that, backed by a head coach who had no idea on how to gameplan against a Steelers team that was weak against the rush. Instead, he left his rookie right tackle out to dry. While he didn’t give up all nine sacks, he gave up more than any one player should’ve.
Baker Mayfield looked awful in the first half and while he mounted some sort of “comeback” attempt in the second half, his five deflections, and five drops really showcased the issues with this team. Mayfield was rushed, had little protection and when he did hook up with the likes of D’Ernest Johnson, Rashard Higgins, or Austin Hooper, he was met with drops.
Mayfield’s shoulder has been an issue all year and it has greatly affected his play. So what does head coach Kevin Stefanski do when he knows his quarterback is hobbled, and constantly getting hit by T.J. Watt? Does he run the ball?
Not really. The Browns ran the ball just 20 times against 37 passing attempts. Mayfield is a solid quarterback when healthy, we know this, we’ve seen this. He has not been solid for most of the year. When he needed his coach most to protect him, and keep him from getting hit, Stefanski does nothing.
Literally, nothing. He doesn’t run the ball more, he doesn’t load up the line to try and slow down Watt, he let his rookie right tackle and his quarterback get abused all game.
His lack of preparedness and his lack of adjustments killed this team.
The Browns need to correct these coaching issues in the offseason
Mayfield’s not getting an extension but that’s ok. He’s getting his fifth-year option regardless, the Browns already picked it up. He’ll get shoulder surgery and hopefully look like his playoff self once again. That said, there’s no reason to play him anymore. The Browns clinched a losing record and got swept by the Steelers, Mayfield should go straight into surgery after they get home.
At times Stefanski looked disinterested in doing any actual coaching. It felt like a kid who plays Madden but skips just to the offensive parts and then gets made and skips the defense and special team parts to get back on offense. Only in this case, this kid refuses to make any adjustments or coach.
Yes, Mayfield played badly, but he still played well enough to get within five. That should’ve happened a lot earlier and may have had Stefanski not thrown his wounded quarterback to the wolves.
Stefanski shouldn’t be fired, and the Browns shouldn’t go scorch Earth and be overly dramatic. This was a season marred by injuries and Covid more than anything. Yet, it did expose flaws. Mayfield needs surgery. The receivers need help. Austin Hooper shouldn’t be starting. The Browns need to invest in offensive line insurance and the front office needs to push Stefanski to give up play-calling.
If he can’t give up play-calling, then this team has little hope of being better. Alex Van Pelt may not be the answer either, and the team may want to consider shaking things up on that front. The team needs to be well structured and well insulated to be willing to take a real shot at the playoffs again next season.
That can’t happen if nothing changes on the coaching front. It isn’t the outcome, but the lack of effort to change the outcome that has really opened a lot of eyes. It’s one thing to believe a player is your best option at the position, like with Mayfield and James Hudson. It’s another thing to not do anything to help them.
That’s a failure that needs to be righted.