Playoff hopes were extinguished for the Cleveland Browns when they were officially eliminated from contention in last Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints. Since Deshaun Watson joined the team, four weeks ago, the offense has failed to score more than six points in a contest.
By trading for Watson this offseason, the Cleveland Browns made it very clear that their future is tied to him. He has the largest guaranteed contract in the league, and the team gave up multiple first round picks to get him, he isn’t going anywhere. But it is clear, someone is going to be held accountable for the failures this season.
Who is responsible for the disappointment?
The defensive coordinator, Joe Woods, has certainly been a name on the hotseat. Will the Browns use this offseason to upgrade the coordinator for this unit?
Additionally, the offense has stalled out. It is interesting, and worth noting, that the offense was playing fine the first eleven weeks. However, in these last four weeks they haven’t been able to establish the run, and the offensive unit has struggled to put together meaningful, point-scoring, drives. While it seems obvious what the issue has been, some fans and NFL community members believe the problem is with Kevin Stefanski. The Browns have a long history of firing coaches, so if the organization identifies Stefanski as the problem, Haslam will not be afraid to rip off the Band-Aid.
The longest tenured Brown, Joel Bitonio, was asked in his press conference what he thought about Kevin Stefanski’s three years in Cleveland. Bitonio made his thoughts noticeably clear saying he thinks Stefanski is “the man for the job for sure.”
Additionally, in Deshaun Watson’s press conference, he was asked about Stefanski. Watson assured reporters that the “hotseat” conversation surrounding Stefanski is “just talk” for the media. He followed up with the following quote: “We all trust Kevin, we love Kevin, we support Kevin, we respect Kevin.”
The Browns haven’t kept a head coach for three full seasons in Jimmy Haslam’s tenure. So, while Stefanski’s future with the team will continue to be a topic of conversation for the coming weeks, he has already reached an unprecedented benchmark.
Commanders’ season on the line
While the Browns playoff hopes are officially over, the Washington Commanders are fighting for their playoff lives. There are a few outside circumstances to keep the Commanders from being eliminated, but beating the Browns is the surest way to guarantee themselves another week.
The Commanders have been winless in their previous three games. Tying and losing to their division-rival the New York Giants in their first games in December, and then losing this past week to the San Francisco 49ers. The recent struggles for Washington have caused them to make a change at the quarterback position, Carson Wentz will be starting his first game for the Commanders since mid-October.
Washington relies very heavily on their defense. They are 0-4 on the season in games where they allow 24+ points. As mentioned above, over the last four weeks, the Browns offense hasn’t been scoring anywhere near 24 points in a game. If the Browns want to beat the Commanders this week they will need to put points on the board. The temperature is supposed to be in the 60’s on Sunday and the weather should be clear, so there are no excuses for the Browns offense to underperform.
Washington’s defensive front is one of the best in the league. Ohio State fans will see a few familiar faces this week wearing gold and burgundy. Following an ACL tear in the 2021 season, Chase Young made his 2022 debut this past week against the 49ers. Young appeared in 30 snaps against the 49ers, and it is expected that number will increase this week.
The Commanders will also look to get Carson Wentz working early, going up against the 27th ranked pass defense in the Browns. More Ohio State natives, Terry McLaurin, and Curtis Samuel, will try to make the Browns pass defense work, as they are featured receivers for the Commanders.
Overall, playing games once the team has been eliminated is a tough spot to be in. The Browns know the future of their staff, as well as many of the 53 men on the roster is in question moving forward. They will need to find motivation in being a “season-spoiler” for their opponent as opposed to attempting to extend their own season. As we head for another offseason without playing any meaningful January football games there are many questions that will need to be answered. Winning these last couple of games down the stretch can hopefully make the disappointment a bit more bearable.
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