Kevin Stefanski as a play-caller may have the most to prove for the Browns

Mar 2, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski during the NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns can’t afford Kevin Stefanski to be the problem again.

If we did a list, and we may do a list, of boneheaded Kevin Stefanski decisions in 2021, we may be here for a while. There’s no denying that what he did in 2020 was impressive, and there’s no denying that he helped build a good defense with defensive coordinator Joe Woods in 2021. There’s also no doubt that his offense, when healthy, is extremely impressive.

He built a good system. The problem is, he’s as bland as they come as a play-caller and the Browns need a better season from him more than anything in 2022.

Stefanski has already said he’s not handing off the play-calling duties in 2022 and that may be a mistake. His ability as a play-caller was in doubt in 2020 and was further exploited in 2021 when he didn’t have his best offensive linemen, a slew of injured receivers, and a quarterback with one good shoulder.

There were games where he ran the ball 20+ times and got barely anything while refusing to throw and there were other games where he threw 30+ times and refused to run. It was maddening to see, as Stefanski had next to zero half-time adjustments a lot of weeks.

Regardless of health, that can’t be the case for 2022, and if someone doesn’t tell him that, then this team may be in trouble.

Kevin Stefanski has to prove he’s creative enough to get out of sticky situations

Stefanski proved in 2021 that if the offense is struggling to stay healthy, he’s going to struggle to be effective as a play-caller. That can’t happen again. Yes, you can point to the injuries of Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Baker Mayfield, Jack Conklin, and others for why the Browns offense took a step back, and that’d be fair.

Yet, the Browns had three pass-catching tight ends and he still couldn’t get them all the ball. He would put Harrison Bryant as an H-Back, instead of just bringing in Andy Janovich to play fullback, he wouldn’t put David Njoku or Demetric Felton in the slot that often, or when he did, it wouldn’t result in much of the way of attention their way.

Anthony Schwartz is basically Clifford Franklin from The Replacements,  he couldn’t figure a way to get him the ball that didn’t involve Stick ‘Em, and do we need to bring up the whole Mayfield of it all? I know people don’t see him as the next Tom Brady, and that’s ok, no one was supposed to. Yet, if you thought Mayfield couldn’t play like he has shown capable in the past, then why didn’t you sit him?

I thought an injured Mayfield was a better option than a healthy Keenum but did Stefanski? If he didn’t, he needs to explain why he let Mayfield out there then. You can’t justify running the ball 30-odd times a game when it wasn’t working and then not explain why to the press. The offense was a mess, and it goes beyond the obvious.

How many times did he go for it on fourth down, only to eat it? How many times did he make questionable personal decisions (like putting in Felton over Hunto n third and long), only for it to bite him in the butt?

Moreover, is Austin Hooper and Njoku just average players or are they being held back by an offense that doesn’t know how to utilize them?

Stefanski has a lot to work out in 2022 and if the offense struggles, it won’t just be Mayfield who fans want to run out of town at the end of the year. For Stefanski’s sake, he better be taking in more input from the coaches around him.

Otherwise, it’s going to be a long season.

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