It’s been another disappointing season for the Cleveland Browns this year and, as is always the case in sports, some fans are calling for the coach’s head. That means that Kevin Stefanski is on the hot seat, and the team’s owner will have to make a decision on whether to keep the coach or look to someone else.
ESPN reports that, at owners’ meetings this past week, the NFL presented owners with information about the staggering cost of now-fired coaches, general managers, and other front office executives. The total tab comes to $800 million, which is real money even in the fantasy world of NFL owners and the jaw-dropping pay packages for athletes and coaches. Some teams are shelling out big bucks for multiple firings in recent years; the New York Giants, for example, are paying two prior head coaches along with their current coach. And here’s the thing to keep in mind about those terminated coaches on the spreadsheet that the NFL shared with the owners: every one of them came to their job with great fanfare and with the promise of leading their teams to great success.
So, what about Stefanski? The record is decidedly mixed for the third-year coach. He took the Browns to the playoffs and won a playoff game in his first year, suffered through a bad 2021, and stands at 6-8, with a very remote chance at the playoffs, with three games to go this year. But here’s a statistic that should give Browns’ fans some pause: with the team’s win over the Ravens last Saturday, Stefanski is the winningest Browns coach since the team came back into the league in 1999. That’s because the Browns have had a ludicrous number of different head coaches during that period–ten head coaches and two additional interim head coaches. The Cleveland head coaching carousel is outpaced only by the number of quarterbacks that have started games for the Browns since the team returned to the league.
I’m in favor of keeping Stefanski, although I reserve full judgment until we get to the end of the season. The team still seems to be playing for him, I think his run-oriented approach is well-suited to a team that will play a number of foul weather games every year, and I believe his stolid demeanor is well-suited to Cleveland, too. This season has been a strange one, in view of the Deshaun Watson situation and the need to start a career back-up for most of the season. Even so, the Browns could be in the thick of the playoff race this year, but for the kinds of mishaps that seem to happen only to the Browns.
If there is one thing the Browns could use, it is stability. Assuming the team still plays hard during the next three games, I hope Cleveland’s ownership learns from that $800 million spreadsheet and decides to keep Stefanski.
First year I’ve been excited about the lions in forever