Browns Coach Kevin Stefanski Called Out as Hot Seat Candidate

Kevin Stefanski

Getty Images Head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns stumbled to 2-3 with a loss against the Los Angeles Chargers and head coach Kevin Stefanski’s seat is starting to heat up a little.

After leading the Browns to the postseason and garnering Coach of the Year honors as a rookie skipper, Stefanski has stumbled. The Browns finished 8-9 last season and missed the playoffs and the team’s play has been uneven to start this year. As a whole, Stefanski is 21-17 as the man in charge in Cleveland.

While Stefanski isn’t firmly on the hot seat, he landed on The Athletic’s list of coaching situations to keep an eye on. Here’s what Mike Jones of the Athletic had to say about Stefanski’s job security:

League insiders are split on this one. Some say Stefanski — whose team regressed last season and has opened 2022 with a losing record despite having a soft early slate that included Carolina, the Jets, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and the Chargers — can’t afford continued struggles once Deshaun Watson returns in Week 12. Others say Watson’s absence and the re-acclimation process likely will help buy Stefanski time. He does need to win soon, though. After helping lead Cleveland to the playoffs in 2020, the Browns missed the postseason last season, and now own a 2-3 record when they very well could have been 3-2 or even 4-1.

Stefanski has repeatedly taken the heat for the Browns’ mistakes, refusing to throw other coaches or players under the bus for miscues, miscommunications and overall ineffectiveness.

“It is my responsibility to get this fixed,” Stefanski said after the Browns’ latest loss. “I do know this, I’ve seen these players, these coaches, this group play winning football. We’ve got to go do it. Very easy for me to say it, us to say it … we’ve got to go do it.”

He might not need to do it in a hurry, but if the losses pile up, Stefanski will be under pressure next season to turn things around quickly.

Deshaun Watson Returns to Browns Facilities

The big catalyst waiting in the wings for the Browns is Watson, who is suspended for 11 games. He returned to the team this week and Stefanski and Co. are happy to have him around, albeit in a limited capacity.

The three-time Pro Bowl passer can only participate in team meetings, meet individually with the coaches and work out at the team’s facility until November 14. After that, he can begin practicing before taking the field on December 4 for his first start in a Browns uniform.

“We’ll work through what we’re allowed to do with him for the foreseeable future,” Stefanski said. “He’s in the meeting rooms with our guys. … Which is great for him and for us to have him back with his teammates.”

The Browns are all-in on Watson as their quarterback of the future. They gave up three first-round picks in the deal and inked him to a five-year deal worth $230 million.

“He’s in a good spot,” Stefanski said. “I think he worked real hard, was in [Cleveland], working locally, making sure he was staying on top of it physically. So now he’s just got to catch up a little bit in the meeting room.”

Browns Need to Turn Things Around Against Patriots

The Browns’ three losses this season have come by a combined six points, which shows the small margin for error in the NFL. Many of the most glaring mistakes have come late in games, whether by defensive collapse, a late turnover, or missed kick.

“We are five games in, and obviously, there are things that we absolutely have to address, have to look at and fix quickly,” Stefanski said. “We don’t have a bye week and you don’t have two weeks to look at this. We have to fix it quickly. To your point, we have a lot of guys who have played really good football for us. I know they want to get it fixed. I know we as coaches do, as well.”

The Browns are a 3-point home favorite against the Patriots this week, with New England dealing with an uncertain QB situation. Fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe started last week as the Patriots throttled Detroit 29-0.

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