ESPN’s Tony Rizzo was the consummate “every fan” for a few minutes of his show this past Monday.
That’s when he unloaded on Kevin Stefanski about the 2 plays that left Cleveland Browns‘ followers shaking their heads in unison.
Holding a playbook loaded with options for every occasion, Stefanski called consecutive quarterback sneaks with a yard to go.
At first glance, it might not have been the worst call even of the Buffalo game.
— ESPN Cleveland (@ESPNCleveland) November 21, 2022
After all, he has a big-bodied quarterback with an excellent record of converting such plays.
And if he tried to get fancy and lost yardage, it would not have saved Stefanski from the ire of the fans.
But Jacoby Brissett was operating behind his third-string center against one of the best front 7s in football.
And the reminder of those variables on third down wasn’t enough to elicit a different plan on fourth.
Rizzo: Moment Too Big For Stefanski
Rizzo’s rant was really about more than a lousy segment of play calls.
The ESPN pundit called the sequence a perfect example of a moment that was too big for Kevin Stefanski.
And he offered a solution that would allow the head coach to do a better job.
“Get your face out of the play sheet!” Rizzo yells. “Start coaching a football team. Fire up your defense on the sideline like a head coach should. I’ve seen enough!”
Calling his own plays on game day has led to criticism of Stefanski from the moment he took over in Cleveland.
Play calling at that critical moment was pathetic. #Browns
— Tony Rizzo (@TheRealTRizzo) November 20, 2022
Despite his offense getting more than expected from Jacoby Brissett, he leaves himself open to questions almost weekly.
Stefanski’s situational decision-making lags behind his general game planning, as evidenced by his offensive statistics versus win totals.
But it is his hands-off attitude towards his defense and special teams that might ultimately put heat under Stefanski’s seat.
What Stefanski Missed In The Moment
Analytically speaking… Cleveland’s failure to convert a third and fourth down early in the 3rd quarter didn’t end their chances.
But that is exactly why analytics can’t be the default response to every situation.
Stefanski’s offense had a chance to take back control of the game after Buffalo scored 13 unanswered points
Penalties helped Cleveland march downfield in response, an indication everything wasn’t going to go the Bills’ way.
I know Jacoby Brissett is good at the QB sneak, but it’s very #Browns to not even act like Nick Chubb is on their team on huge third- and fourth-and-shorts
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) November 20, 2022
Brissett converted an early third down and Nick Chubb set up the 3rd-and-1 with his best run of the day, 9 yards on second down.
It was a perfect time to let Chubb show the Bills’ defense how different the second half might be.
Or maybe Stefanski could have let Brissett take a shot at the end zone off play-action in 4-down territory.
But a kill shot wasn’t analytically correct, and Kevin’s big sheet told Brissett to fall forward… twice… for no gain.