When the Brown hired Stefanski in January 2020, one of the goals was to avoid the emotional fluctuations that were part of the previous coaching schemes.
“I want our team to be disciplined and resilient every week,” Andrew Berry said. “I want us to be prepared to deal with the inevitable adversity in a strong, positive way.”
That was what Brown’s GM told me in an interview before the 2020 season. Stefanski and his coaching staff delivered. The Browns never lost two in a row. They were without drama, especially compared to previous seasons.
A year ago, Berry talked about the team “maturing”. After the 11-5 season and a playoff victory in Pittsburgh, the Browns should be a “mature” team. That means there are no psychological hangovers after the loss on opening day 33-29 in Kansas City as they face Houston on Sunday.
I trust Stefanski, especially in keeping his team focused. He reminds me of a polite Bill Belichick. He says a little to attention. He rejects questions he does not like, but he is not insulting or offensive.
He was quickly “on to Houston” after Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs and reminded everyone how the Texans (expected to be terrible this season) are “1-0” after beating Jacksonville.
He uses press conferences to talk to the fans. Consider this from Friday’s press conference:
“I would like to get the message out that coach Stefanski wants you in your seats at kickoff. No empty seats. I want full throat for all 60 minutes. Get out of Muni Lot, sit in your seat and you can go back to Muni Lot after the game. … The home advantage in the NFL is such a big thing, and I think our fans make a difference. You’re talking about third down and fourth down. We look for any delays in the game from them or false starts. That kind of thing is a direct connection to our crowd. When we are offended, we look to hear a needle fall. ”
Just as he trains his team, the orders are clear. He looks for every edge to win.
While there is a sense that Stefanski is a veteran coach due to his unwavering approach, this is only his second season on the job. It is also his first with real expectations. A year ago, it was hard to guess how the browns would fare. A rookie coach. A pandemic. No spring OTAs. No pre-season games. A new offensive and defense. I chose them to finish 8-8.
The Browns were one of the NFL’s best feel-good stories. Stefanski was the coach of the year. While this game is not a huge test, it will tell us a few things about the team and the coaching staff.
This is a game the Browns must win, and do so by force in front of their home crowd.
ABOUT THE RECIPIENTS
1. For years, I have insisted that Jarvis Landry is the best receiver on the team. His value goes beyond catching passes and being on the field for every game. As offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said, “I would take 11 Jarvises out there. He’s a pro’s pro. He’s just as tough as they come. … His ability to run after the catch, run the sweep for a touchdown … I do not know many guys who are able to do that. ”
2. Landry said rookie Anthony Schwartz “played an almost perfect game.” As they did with Donovan Peoples-Jones a year ago, the Browns have praised Schwartz’s football IQ. Van Pelt explained: “One of his areas of strength is his intelligence and his ability to study and learn acting.”
3. The Browns were excited to grab Schwartz in the third round. He played at Auburn, where there were QB problems and a running-based offense. He was not given the opportunity to show off his Olympic caliber speed as he would on a team that threw more often.
4. There’s no reason to rush Odell Beckham back because the team believes it has four reliable receivers. Peoples-Jones had only one catch and goal. He could play a bigger role on Sunday, especially because Houston is expected to pay far more attention to Schwartz based on his three catches for 69 yards in KC
5. Looking at the statistics from the Chiefs game, Brown’s approach to the passing game is revealed. It’s sharing the ball. David Njoku, Landry and Schwartz led the team with five goals. Then came Kareem Hunt and Austin Hooper with three.
6. I love the balance, as Baker Mayfield is simply looking for an open receiver. No need to dwell on Beckham or anyone else. The Browns ran the ball 26 times (in 153 yards) and threw it 28 times (321 yards) in KC
7. The front office has been patient with Njoku, and maybe it will pay off. He has a new agent. The trade request disappeared. He caught three passes for 76 yards in KC
8. Van Pelt said: “He is fabulous. He has been amazing since training camp. His ability to run is elite. We need to find ways to help him stretch the field for us. It’s fun when you get him in there and you have a chance to run away from someone. … His exercise habits are much better than last year. … David could be a dominant player in the close position, both in the running game and the passing game. ”
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