Amid a season of struggles offensively, time and time again head coach Kevin Stefanski has been asked his role as the team's play caller and if he's going to turn it over to offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, which frankly makes no sense the rest of the 2021 season, but could have merit in 2022.
Fundamentally, play calling, like game planning goes so much further than the guy telling the quarterback what play to run. For the Browns, Van Pelt, running game coordinator Stump Mitchell, passing game coordinator Chad O'Shea and offensive line coach Bill Callahan are all involved in some capacity in addition to support staff up in the box to provide prudent information to those decision makers.
So there are times where Stefanski is simply relaying calls from that group, because he's dealing with other aspects of the game. The frequency and which calls he's making versus the ones the box is making are impossible to know.
That doesn't mean the role of play caller is unimportant. It's simply to provide some perspective on how it all works.
The idea of moving to Van Pelt, especially coming out of the bye week sounds really logical and appealing unless you're Van Pelt.
Van Pelt wants to call plays. He's not going to be disruptive about it, but he's a competitor and aspires to be the play caller. Given the state of the offense, Jack Conklin done for the year, getting nothing out of the wide receivers, Harrison Bryant now out with a high ankle sprain, which is to say nothing of Baker Mayfield's status, how is that not putting Van Pelt in a bad position?
The Browns offense is not a slight variation in play calls away from being effective. And should Van Pelt go out there and the Browns continue to struggle or even get worse, which has everything to do with the roster as opposed to the plays, what did it accomplish?
Van Pelt is effectively kneecapped and gets just as much unwarranted flak as defensive coordinator Joe Woods from the public.
Should the Browns get slightly better under Van Pelt, that may have far more to do with Mayfield's improving health than anything to do with the play calls. Either way, it's not a good read on the state of the offense or how they are best served by their coaching staff.
For the 2022 season, there may be a real value in such a move. Freeing up Stefanski to take on more an overseer role while occasionally telling Van Pelt what to call akin to the way Mike Tomlin operates with the Steelers has real appeal.
At least at that point, the team is being realistic and fair to Van Pelt. It also doesn't come as a panic move or a quick fix, which this team certainly does not need. There's a real plan and thought process behind it, which is how this organization operates.
Should Stefanski continue operating as the play caller, that's hardly the end of the world. He's a good at it in no small part because the operation has been effective. It always looks far better when the team has more talent and is executing consistently.
Regardless of how the Browns proceed with who calls the plays, the 2021 season has revealed some sharp edges that need to be ironed out within the operation.