Kevin Stefanski Makes the Same Plea to Refs Every Week Over Myles Garrett

Kevin Stefanski

Getty Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski reacts on the sideline.

Kevin Stefanski, rising up the Coach of the Year leaderboard each time he leads the injury-riddled Cleveland Browns to another victory during the 2023 NFL season, would love for the officials to heed his words.

After all, he’s making the same pleas to the referees each and every week.

Much like T.J. Watt’s frustration for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Myles Garrett just can’t seem to draw the whistle he and the Browns feel he deserves. The head coach is doing everything he can to change that.

Kevin Stefanski Brings Up Myles Garrett Holding Each Week

Myles Garrett has been a force of nature for the Browns over the last few years. Pro Football Focus’ grading system has given him an 89.5 overall score in 2020, a 92.0 in 2021, a 92.5 in 2022 and a 93.0 during the current campaign, showcasing both his impressive growth trajectory and his consistently high level of play.

The PFF scale, though, judges players on process rather than raw results. Both Garrett himself and the Browns as a whole would love if he could register even more quarterback takedowns, but they feel as though he’s being held back.


“It’s something I talk to the officials about every week leading up to the game is keeping an eye on the guys that are blocking [Garrett],” Stefanski shared, per Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal. “So it really comes with being a great player. We want the other teams to play within the rules, obviously, but it hasn’t slowed him down. I mean, he continues to play at a very high level.”

Garrett, despite the extra attention foisted upon him every weekend, has still recorded 13 sacks in 13 games, leaving him on a pace virtually identical to the 16 sacks he’s registered each of the last two seasons.

Only Khalil Mack (15.0), T.J. Watt (14.0), Maxx Crosby (13.5), Danielle Hunter (13.5), Josh Allen (13.5) and Trey Hendrickson (13.5) are ahead of him on the 2023 leaderboard. Since he entered the league as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft, just Watt has been more productive as a sack artist, per Stathead:

  1. T.J. Watt: 91.5 sacks from 2017 through the present
  2. Myles Garrett: 87.5
  3. Aaron Donald: 81.0
  4. Cameron Jordan: 71.0
  5. Chris Jones: 70.5
  6. Khalil Mack: 69.5
  7. Danielle Hunter: 66.0
  8. Chandler Jones: 65.0
  9. Matt Judon: 62.5
  10. Yannick Ngakoue: 61.0

Still, that statistical prowess doesn’t mean either he or the Cleveland coaching staff is satisfied.

“You know, Myles gets a ton of attention. Breaking news into SportsCenter,” Stefanski said. “The coordinators when they’re getting ready to game plan for him, the game plan is built around stopping him. So he gets a ton of attention via tight end chips, running back chips, slides to him, and he’s a difficult guy to block.

“There’s always going to be plays that the offensive line is holding on for dear life, sometimes literally. So he fights through it. I know he was frustrated, but he’s just going to got to keep and he will keep playing and not let that get in the way of him playing really good football.”

Myles Garrett Has Shared Choice Words About Officiating

Even if Stefanski brings up Garrett and the potential for holding calls every week, the spotlight has only shone more brightly due to the pass rusher’s own words following a Week 14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Garrett engaged in a full-fledged vent session about the officiating after he was held—there’s that word again—without a sack for the third straight week, recording just one tackle and three quarterback hits on the day.

“The officiating was a travesty today,” he said in the wake of the victory. “It was honestly awful. And the fact that they’re letting them get away with hands to the face, holding, false starting. I know they called a couple. But damn, they could have called it all game. And the one that cost us down on the two-yard line. I mean, respect to those guys, it’s a hard job. But hell, we have a hard job, as well.

“You can’t make it harder by throwing holding and hands to the face out the rulebook. And like I said, I got a lot of respect for those guys, but we get scrutinized for the plays that we don’t make. So, someone has to hold them accountable for the plays or the calls they don’t make. And they need to be under the same kind of microscope as we are every single play.”

Whether officials will respond by blowing the whistle more frequently or displaying subconscious bias against the player calling them out remains to be seen.

Either way, Garrett seems to have a pretty strong case. Turn on any Browns game, and you’ll likely see at least a few examples of plays that could have resulted in laundry hitting turf on behalf of the dominant defender.

“As I watched the game film this week, I saw Garrett consistently tugged, hooked, and grabbed by just about every Jacksonville offensive lineman,” Lance Reisland wrote for while video evidence such as the plays embedded both above and below. “By my count, on his 67 snaps, Garrett was held 11 times, with five of those being blatant holding violations that went uncalled.”

Would a more consistent whistle lead to more sacks? Probably not. But it would work wonders for a Cleveland defense tasked with doing a lot of heavy lifting this season, particularly in front of the home crowd at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

And, of course, it would give Stefanski less reason to be in the officials’ ears.

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