The conditions were rough for the Cleveland Browns against the New Orleans Saints and the playcalling from head coach Kevin Stefanski was as well.
Stefanski’s decisions as the offensive play-caller were heavily criticized as the Browns tried to beat the Saints in frigid conditions. It was the coldest regular season game in franchise history. The kickoff temperature was 6 degrees, with a wind chill temperature of -16 degrees, per the Browns’ official site.
Stefanski called pass plays in key situations on short third and fourth downs. Those might have worked in normal conditions but against the Saints, those passes hit the icy turf and turned the tide of the game. Fans let Stefanski hear it on Twitter after the game.
“I am by no means a genius at any professional level when it comes to how to run an offense. However. I am confident I could have called better plays than Stefanski today, and that is INSANE. Nobody sitting on their couch should know better,” one fan wrote.
Stefanski Defends Play Selection Against Saints
Nick Chubb — the league’s best rusher in the fourth quarter — looked to be hitting his stride late but didn’t get a consistent flow of carries with the game hanging in the balance. Chubb finished with 92 yards on 24 carries, receiving just 10 second-half touches. Watson looked great on a designed run for a touchdown in the first half but only had three carries during the contest.
“I like Stefanski but I’m running out of excuses,” Ben Axelrod of WKYC tweeted. “If he’s not giving you an advantage with his playcalling, I’m not sure what he’s giving you.”
The Browns threw the ball 31 times in the game compared to just 15 for the Saints, albeit that’s a little skewed with the Browns trying to mount a comeback late.
“Just obviously each time trying to put our guys in position. Couple of times you had the wind, you are trying to throw possession throws,” Stefanski said. “Felt like there were some opportunities both in the run and the pass. We just didn’t come through.”
Stefanski’s Job Safe for Next Season
While some have called for Stefanski and the rest of the staff to be let go following a disappointing 6-9 campaign, it appears that he’s safe for at least next season. The Browns have not looked into a coaching change, per Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports.
Stefanski is in his third season with the Browns, going 25-23 over that span. He was named the Coach of the Year in 2020 after leading the Browns to the postseason.
With the loss to the Saints, the Browns are now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and are turning their attention to improving for next season with Deshaun Watson at quarterback.
“Obviously, you are disappointed with that. I know our focus won’t change for next week,” Stefanski said. “We are in the business to go down there [to Washington] and try to get a win next week. Obviously, that is disappointing.”
After taking on the Commanders, the Browns will close out the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.
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