After a good, old-fashioned butt-whipping of a football game, Cleveland Browns fans are reeling.
Perhaps they could shrug off a bad all-around day affected by injuries if it didn’t come on the heels of Week 5.
But somehow Week 6 seemed like a continuation of the final 3 minutes of the Los Angeles Chargers game.
And, just like last week, Kevin Stefanski’s post-game assessment didn’t help matters much.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 17, 2021
Sure, the Arizona Cardinals are undefeated with a top-10 offense and defense.
But the Browns were favored for a reason, not the least of which was the reigning NFL Coach of the Year.
And hearing how his team has to get better… again… isn’t the rallying cry we need.
We grade players every week, but here is how we’re grading Kevin Stefanski’s Week 6 performance.
Unimaginative and Predictable Attack
Cleveland’s offense entered Week 6 a mess.
This is a team boasting the top rushing attack in the league.
But for two straight weeks, they put the ball in the hands of their quarterback to defend a lead.
#Browns Kevin Stefanski said they had a decent idea Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. wouldn't play today earlier in the week and it's on him and the team to "find a way" without them.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) October 17, 2021
Instead, Stefanski came out passing and continued to pass well after it became obvious Arizona was ready for it.
Hunt had 14 rushes, which might have been enough if they were scattered throughout the game.
I don't profess to be an analytics guru, and right now I don't care what they tell Kevin Stefanski, but when you are converting just 6 of 15 on 4th down, you need to take the 3 when you can and stop going for it until your offense plays at a level that justifies it. #Browns
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) October 18, 2021
But they were clustered: 3 rushes in 4 plays, 4 runs in a row, 2 of 3, 2 in a row, and 3 in a row accounted for the 14.
It made for a predictable and unimaginative response to the injury issue.
And let’s not even mention the Browns’ 4th sack on a 4th down conversion try this season.
Coaching Scared… Still
Kevin Stefanski took responsibility for a conservative play calling in the final minutes of Week 5.
He said he was scared of something bad happening, and let it affect his play calling.
Then he coached scared for the entire Arizona game.
Kevin Stefanski has earned, like, 10 years worth of the benefit of the doubt. But yeah, the play-calling/clock management down the stretch was not good.
— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) October 10, 2021
Cleveland ran one attempted reverse with Hunt shuffling the ball to a speedy Anthony Schwartz.
We can argue Schwartz missed a chance to cut upfield for a big gain.
But it was a perfect angle on a great play by the defender that dropped the speedy receiver for a 3-yard loss.
And that was the end of any trickery or risk-taking by Kevin Stefanski’s offense.
Stefanski on the last drive: "First goal is try to get to midfield so you can throw a Hail Mary. Also wanted to be smart with protection (with two backup OTs)."
— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) October 10, 2021
Then there was a repeat of Stefanski’s new version of a 2-minute drill: Playing for a Hail Mary pass.
Trailing 23-7 heading into the half, Baker Mayfield played it safe with short passes and ran the clock down.
Donovan Peoples-Jones saved the moment with a nice catch, but that does not make it a sound strategy.
Does Stefanski Believe in the Browns?
Cleveland was a fashionable pick to go deep into the postseason in 2021.
But Kevin Stefanski does not seem to be among those believing in his own system.
Good teams have an identity and stick to that identity.
Kevin Stefanski: We’re a 3-3 team. Very very average.
— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) October 17, 2021
But the Browns offense looked nothing like the Browns offense against Arizona.
Both of Stefanski’s young replacement tackles score higher as run blockers than pass blockers.
D’Ernest Johnson knows Chubb’s plays and did a serviceable job last season in his place.
But instead of implementing the 3 replacements into the regular offense, 11 players had to adjust.
Kevin Stefanski 4th down decision tree pic.twitter.com/fVLHpcOVBa
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) October 10, 2021
Maybe Stefanski thought he would surprise Arizona with a pass-heavy attack.
But the Hail Mary got him close enough to revert to his strengths in the second half.
Adjustments of any type might have helped him avoid a shutout the rest of the way.
Stefanski’s Grade, and a Word About Defense
Kevin Stefanski was brought here for his offensive prowess, as much as his understanding of analytics.
And Cleveland hired an experienced and highly touted defensive coordinator.
But Stefanski is the head coach, and he is responsible for the defense and special teams, too.
After the Week 5 performance, I suspected Stefanski would spend some quality time with Joe Woods.
#Browns HC Kevin Stefanski: "We've got a bunch of areas we've got to address, have got to fix and it's my responsibility."
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) October 17, 2021
If he did, he was less-than-inspiring, based on yesterday’s results.
The Browns have too much talent to look as susceptible as they have in 3 and a half games this year.
Fair or not, Stefanski bears some responsibility for that, especially if he insists on calling his own plays.
For all that, Stefanski’s grade for Week 6 is a solid “D”, pulling him down to a shaky C for the season.