Maybe the Cleveland Browns‘ offense won’t look so different after all.
Head coach and offensive play-caller Kevin Stefanski sat down for an interesting conversation recently with NFL Network
After discussing how comfortable Deshaun Watson is this year, he was asked a big question.
The analysts wanted to know how Stefanski will fight the urge to pass on every down with Watson at the helm.
And Stefanski’s answer opens questions about just how pass-heavy this year’s attack might be.
“We look at every game like, ‘Okay, how are we going to score some points?’ Sometimes you love the matchup on the ground. Sometimes you love the matchup in the air. It can be situational. But Nick Chubb is a huge part of our offense.”
It hardly sounds like Stefanski is ready to let Watson run wild in the passing game.
Last season was Cleveland’s highest run-to-pass ratio since Stefanski came in, almost a perfect 50-50 split.
But the loss of Kareem Hunt and Stefanski’s recent teases of Nick Chubb as a 3-down back suggest a change.
Throw in their most threatening quarterback of the modern era, and Cleveland looks ready to join the pass-happy 2020s.
But Stefanski’s response throws a little water on the notion of a wide-open passing attack.
What Does A Pass-First Offense Look Like?
Despite his reputation, Cleveland has never run the ball more than passed it during the Stefanski era.
But he came pretty close with just six more passes than rushes last season.
And there were still eight teams that ran the ball more frequently.
Shifting Cleveland’s 50-50 run-pass ratio to Tampa Bay’s league-leading 66% pass rate requires just 10 more passes.
That’s roughly how many times Kareem Hunt and a variety of wide receivers and RB3s ran the ball each week.
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) July 29, 2023
And it’s part of the reason why analysts expect little fall-off in Chubb’s production in a pass-first offense.
But we’ve all seen Stefanski react quickly to perceived weaknesses or opportunities in game situations.
How many incompletions or interceptions will he tolerate before turning to the run game?
Browns fans have been frustrated by Stefanski’s sidelining of Chubb at critical points over the years.
Will Stefanski’s in-game analysis frustrate them again by taking the ball out of Watson’s hands?