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Midseason Firings Won't Solve Browns Issues, Could Do Harm

Monday, Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski refused to comment on whether he's considered replacing coaches on his staff. In-season firings won't help this team and could do damage.
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With every loss, there is mounting public pressure on Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski to fire assistant coaches, notably defensive coordinator Joe Woods and special teams coach Mike Priefer. He was asked multiple times during his press conference on Monday after the team's loss to the Buffalo Bills. It might feel good in the moment, but it's a waste of time and yes, it can do harm.

There isn't enough time to install a new scheme, so the result is often a watered down version of what the previous coordinator was doing with some changes around the fringes.

Since the Browns have returned in 1999, fans and media have been calling for the Browns to be a functional organization. They then follow that claim by demanding the team act as irrationally as do when the team performs poorly.

Firing a coach will not send the message to players that fans and media wish it would. It sends the message that the season is probably over or at least on the brink and that if the players continue to struggle, they will simply fire the coach. Accountability for players mostly comes after the season when teams choose to reward or replace them. The midseason firing is virtually meaningless unless it's with the goal of showing players the team should want to keep why they might be better off playing elsewhere.

The Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts have fired head coaches. The Detroit Lions have fired assistant coaches. Are those good models for how the Browns should operate?

In his column arguing that the Browns should fire Woods, Terry Pluto of cleveland.com wrote the following:

"The only member of the Browns defensive staff who has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL is Jason Tarver. The current Cleveland linebackers coach, Tarver had that job with Oakland from 2012-14.

I have no idea if Tarver would be a good choice. Perhaps there is a younger coach on the staff who deserves a shot at the job.

The bigger point is the Browns need a fresh approach to the defense. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the entire defense needs a talent overhaul. Or maybe there are some flaws in the coaching.

A change will help answer some of those questions."

I didn't pick Pluto's work to criticize him personally. I picked it because he eloquently states the case that many fans and media are trying to make. The conclusion and rationale are the part in which I disagree, regardless of where it originated.

This is a blueprint on how to be a dysfunctional organization. Pluto  flatly admits he has no idea if this would be productive or have any impact at all. That honesty is refreshing, but advocates head coach Kevin Stefanski scapegoat Woods and turn his defensive coaching staff into an experiment, which isn't likely to work and further complicates his job.

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Jason Tarver would almost certainly be the interim despite the fact his tenure with the Raiders was poor because he's at least done it before. 48 years old and a good linebackers coach, Tarver won't have a problem finding another job as an assistant likely in the same role. He likely jumps on that grenade to protect younger coaches on staff from being saddled with the failure of this defense.

It's not the same as throwing a wholly unprepared rookie quarterback into the fire where they are likely to be ruined, something else the Browns have done countless times in an attempt to appease an angry mob, but there are parallels. The competitor in the coach or quarterback might have them believe they can get the job done, but the sober approach is that the situation matters. Being put in a position to fail will have lasting consequences, potentially following them as they try to proceed with their careers.

Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin was the co-defensive coordinator at Ole Miss for his brother, Lane Kiffin, for one whole month before changing his mind and remaining with the Browns. Jeff Howard, the defensive backs coach is 39 years old and his entire career in the NFL is between the Browns and Minnesota Vikings. His job as the defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator are the most senior positions he's ever held. Neither are prepared to take over this defense and try to get a game plan ready in a week.

For their part, players continue to come out and defend Woods. Denzel Ward came out on Monday after the Bills loss and stood up for Woods, saying it's on everyone. He's not alone as this has been a theme throughout the season. Players on that side of the ball have said consistently that it's a player issue, that they need to get it corrected.

That doesn't guarantee Woods another year in the job nor should it, but it is a worthwhile consideration for getting through the rest of this season, especially when it is coming from a franchise player.

In the case of special teams, the assistant to Mike Priefer is Stephen Bravo-Brown. This is his first year in the job. The two previous seasons he's been with the team were in quality control for defense.

So many people who coach for the Browns are not better for it. So many of them are out of the league entirely. This dysfunction is part of the reason and should be something the organization seeks to eliminate, because it dilutes the pool of qualified candidates that are willing to consider working for the Browns.

Given that the Browns could be in the market for multiple coordinators, that could be counterproductive. Coaching firings will take care of themselves and should be done on Stefanski's schedule, likely to come after the season.

The 2022 season is bad enough. Don't force any other coaches to needlessly tarnish their reputations just to see something different for a week in order to reinforce what's already obvious; the Browns defense isn't simply a coach away from being productive.