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Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is having his 'rookie' year

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski
David Dermer
/
Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski during the regular season game against New England Patriots

Expectations were high for the Cleveland Browns heading into this season. The team last year went 11-5 under Kevin Stefanski's first year as head coach. They capped it off by winning their first playoff game in 26 years.

Now the team sits at 5-5.

While injuries and off-the-field drama have played a role in the team's troubles, Terry Pluto says Stefanski is now experiencing what most thought he would have last year: his "rookie" season.

Stefanski, who won AP NFL Coach of the Year last season after leading the team to its first playoff birth since 2002, is no longer in his honeymoon phase with fans.

Opposite of "Tough, Smart, and Accountable"
In 2020, the Browns team motto was "Tough, Smart and Accountable." Now, after stacking as many losses already this season as they had all of last, it appears that motto has been lost.

"This is really the first time [Stefanski] is getting some serious second-guessing," Pluto said.

Pluto says it amounts to a sheer lack of consistency across the board.

The team racked up 41 points in a win against against the Bengals followed by a 45-7 loss to Patriots the following week. There's also been inconsistency on defense, along with lingering questions about Baker Mayfield.

"There is no carry-over. They started 3-1 and since then they are 2-4."
Terry Pluto

Moving forward
In just his second year as an NFL head coach, Pluto said Stefanski still has plenty to learn about not only in-game situations, but also how to interact with the media players.

"Usually when they lose he says, 'We were outcoached,' or 'We have to do better.' It rings hollow after a while."

Pluto says Stefanski doesn't offer an answer when reporters follow up by asking exactly how he was outcoached.

"[The players] have heard his coaching sayings. Now you have to get there and show that, 'When I'm facing Bill Belichick or I'm facing Mike Tomlin, our game plans can match them,'" Pluto said.

The Browns play a winnable game against the winless Detroit Lions (0-8-1) this Sunday. Then they play two straight games against the first place Baltimore Ravens (6-3).

Still, Pluto says the season is still salvageable.

"For as difficult as it's been of late to watch the Browns, they still have a shot at the wildcard or maybe even winning the division."