The Cleveland Browns’ past two head coaching hires insisted on retaining play-calling responsibilities. Both of them were canned unceremoniously. Once again, they have hired an offensive coordinator to be their next head coach this round in Kevin Stefanski, who was with the Minnesota Vikings for a long time. The question yet unanswered is whether or not he, too, will retain play-calling duties.
This trend began with Hue Jackson in 2016, who had two and a half spectacularly bad seasons. He incredibly managed to go 1-31 in his first two years, the worst two-season stretch by any team ever in NFL history. The Browns were 2-5-1 by the time he was sent packing in the middle of 2018.
That season, he was ‘influenced’ into hiring offensive coordinator Todd Haley, though there’s reason to believe he was still involved in playcalling. Both were fired midseason and Freddie Kitchens moved into the offensive coordinator role, taking over the plays. He was hired to be their head coach in 2019, and lasted just one season after hiring an offensive coordinator yet retaining playcalling responsibilities for himself.
Stefanski has already hired Alex Van Pelt to be his new offensive coordinator. Van Pelt has a long history of serving as a quarterbacks coach, and has very minimal experience as a coordinator. When asked who would be calling the plays, Stefanski said, “I know that’s a very popular topic. We’ll work through it. I don’t know. That’s the God’s honest truth. We’ll work through it, like I said before, and do what’s best for the offense”.
The Browns have been saying all the same things of Stefanski that they also said about Jackson and Kitchens. Cleveland is in a perpetual state of ‘we’ll believe it when we see it’ as far as their ability to ever turn things around and actually become a competent team, let alone a competitor. Even after seemingly making progress in 2018, they regressed with a 6-10 season in 2019, despite significant upgrades.
It starts with Baker Mayfield, whose play and attitude were both erratic last season. He threw only 22 touchdown passes, with just one fewer interception, despite having two Pro Bowl-quality wide receivers to throw to.
But it also has to go back to the offensive line, where they thought they could get away with Greg Robinson as their starting left tackle. The vacancy at right guard that was created after they traded Kevin Zeitler also has not been properly filled, while Chris Hubbard has not lived up to the promise of his one season as a several-game starter with the Pittsburgh Steelers.