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Kevin Stefanski officially on the hot Seat

Photo: David Richard / AP

At the end of last season, for one of my first articles for BelieveLand, I wrote about how Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski deserved blame (not just Baker Mayfield) for how the 2021 NFL Season ended for the Browns. Here’s how I concluded the article:

Stefanski came from Minnesota, a team who has consistently disappointed over the last half decade. Much like the Browns, the Vikings are a very talented football team that always falls short of expectations for one reason or another. Let’s hope Stefanski learns from his mentor Mike Zimmer and pushes the right buttons for the Browns to get back to the postseason in 2023. If he doesn’t, it may be his last in the CLE.

A week after the article published, Zimmer was let go in Minnesota. Now, the Vikings have a new offensive coach in Kevin O’ Connell and look to be one of the most improved teams in football in 2022. Meanwhile, Stefanski was in charge of arguably the worst loss in the history of the Cleveland Browns (and there’s been a lot of bad losses in that history, especially over the last two decades!).

Up 30-17, 1:55 remaining in the ballgame, You CANNOT blow the game. The Browns mathematically had a 99.9% chance of winning the football game. You cannot lose to what is projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season to their backup QB, who hadn’t won a game in three seasons.

That was not the Joe Flacco who had a record of 17-3 against the Browns as the Ravens signal caller for all those years in Baltimore playing with the Jets Sunday. That was the Flacco who’s kids told him he should retire because he looked so bad in the preseason!

Yet, Flacco carved up Cleveland’s secondary, throwing for 307 yards, including the 66-yard bomb to Corey Davis with just under two minutes left. In-ex-cuse-able.

Then, the Browns allowed the Jets to recover an onside kick (which was a perfect kick by New York punter Braden Mann). Once Justin Hardee Sr. recovered the pigskin, you knew what was going to happen … and it did. With 22 seconds to go, Flacco hit rookie wide receiver and former Buckeye Garrett Wilson on a strike from 15 yards out for the go-ahead score.

The Browns had plenty of chances to win the football game Sunday. If Kareem Hunt just goes down in bounds with 2:02 to go, the Browns win the game 24-17 and cover the 5.5 point spread. Instead, Nick Chubb scores his third TD of the game, rookie sensation Cade York misses the PAT, and the flood gates open, and everybody that bet the Browns to cover the 5.5 point spread lost their appetite while those betting the Jets +5.5 jumped for joy as the Browns blew yet another home opener.

Deshaun Watson or Jacoby Brissett; it wouldn’t have mattered in this game. This loss for the Browns is strictly on the coaching staff. Stefanski hasn’t learned his lesson from last season. The Browns got away with one last week when Brissett did intentionally ground the pigskin with 13 ticks to go, but the officials picked up the flag on the “spike”, allowing York to drill the game-winning 58-yarder and allow Browns fans to celebrate being 1-0 for the first time in nearly two decades.

This week: Utter heartbreak. The coaches have to do better, and it starts with the head man. No matter when Watson takes the gridiron this season, if the Browns do not look like a buttoned up football team, this will be Stefanski’s last season as the coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Only wins will quiet the noise now for the team, and they can put this disaster to rest by winning Thursday night against Pittsburgh and putting on a good performance from the sidelines with their strategic decisions, including clock management.

For now, at least in my eyes, Stefanski is on the hot seat in his third year at the helm in Cleveland.

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