Kevin Stefanski and his Cleveland Browns offense roll into 2022 with a decidedly new look.
Coaches expect Rookie David Bell and 3rd-year receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones to be significant weapons.
#Browns HC Kevin Stefanski: "I think Deshaun, like all of our guys, are professionals. When they're here, they have a job to do. Make sure we're focusing on the task at hand when it comes to football."
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) May 25, 2022
With all those changes and additions to the offense, one thing is certain.
If the Browns’ offense falls as flat as it did in 2021, there will be no excuses left for Stefanski.
Fans and pundits already had enough of the head coach’s weekly mea culpas.
Here are 3 things Kevin Stefanski needs to improve in Year 3.
Stick With Your Studs
It is no secret that the Browns own the best tandem of running backs in the entire NFL.
And there were few who thought their offensive line was a liability, despite injuries last year.
So it was no surprise that many opponents came out and stacked the box against Baker Mayfield.
What was surprising was how quickly Stefanski avoided attacking the strategy, putting the ball in Mayfield’s hands.
3 timeouts available, over 200 yards rushing, Nick Chubb with runs of 4, 10 & 4 yards to start the drive so Kevin Stefanski called 5 straight pass plays after. Only 1 completed – to Nick Chubb. #Browns
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) December 26, 2021
Some of Cleveland’s best plays involved passing from an obvious run formation.
But despite the success rate of that strategy, Stefanski was more likely to go 4 wide to move the linebackers.
Whether or not defenses spread out in response, Cleveland passed almost every time, with limited success.
Stefanski will do well to go with strength versus strength, especially when that involves Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt.
Be Ready To Go Off Script
There were several games when injuries or his inept play should have pushed Baker Mayfield to the sideline.
But Case Keenum knew anything short of multiple trauma to Mayfield would keep the backup on the bench.
This included games like Kansas City and Green Bay when Mayfield kept throwing late in close games.
Short-yardage and clock-killing scenarios were also far from a guarantee of seeing Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt.
Asked if he still has confidence in Baker Mayfield as his starter, #Browns HC Kevin Stefanski doesn’t hesitate even a millisecond before saying, “Yes. Yes.”
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 2, 2022
This despite their top-ranked efforts after contact and in the fourth quarter.
Stefanski never considered removing Mayfield from a game, if you believe his post-game remarks.
And “pre-determined workloads” dictated Chubb’s late-game usage more than game situations.
Stefanski has to learn when to throw out the game plan and projections to save (or pull out) a victory.
Get In There With The Team
Analytic coaches tend to think of players as chess pieces and their own role is an off-board strategist.
But Stefanski needs to make himself part of the team’s declared effort to be closer on and off the field.
Placing a basketball hoop on the Browns’ practice field was a brilliant way to show he is evolving to players’ ideas.
It is a concession that his anti-basketball-playing viewpoint softened in the face of Myles Garrett‘s passion.
Kevin Stefanski on Myles Garrett’s basketball videos that he keeps posting: “He’s retired. … He’s done."
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) June 2, 2021
Deshaun Watson’s Bahamas getaway will probably be matched by a defensive event before the preseason.
But it is up to Stefanski to bring the two units, and maybe even the kicker and punter, together.
Bowling, supper, or a movie are off-field ways to let his guard down and interact without coaching.
And showing up at some players’ community events will further expand the “family” atmosphere they seek.