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'Why I was very high on Cleveland': Browns QB Deshaun Watson has high praise for HC Kevin Stefanski

Kevin Stefanski Deshaun Watson Browns
Posted at 9:51 AM, Dec 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-24 09:51:20-05

BEREA, Ohio — There's no question that the Browns 6-8 record has left many fans disappointed—but some have begun questioning the future of the team as a result. Anytime a season ends without a playoff appearance, fingers are pointed and people need blame.

For some recently, the target has been head coach Kevin Stefanski. In his third season with the team, the last two have been far from what he debuted with in 2020. From Coach of the Year and a playoff win to on the outside looking in, Stefanski's last two season's haven't measured up.

Stefanski's offensive scheme hasn't been the problem, nor has his play calling (aside from some major blunders in situational moments). His plan sees receivers open, mixes in a healthy dose of the run game when possible and was able to get the most out of quarterback Jacoby Brissett through the first 11 games of the season.

But fingers do get pointed, and while many of the Browns losses can be attributed to poor defensive and special teams play, as the leader of the team, Stefanski has taken the fall. It's a trait that his franchise quarterback appreciates, even when things get tough.

"He comes over and he tells you the truth and what he saw. And if he messed up on a situation, he let's us know, 'Hey, that's my fault.' And that's what you got to do as a coach and as a leader. Just take the blame for every situation, even if the blame is not on you," said quarterback Deshaun Watson. "He does that all the time. And I respect Kevin and I appreciate him and that's one of the reasons why I chose to come play for him."

The connection that Stefanski and Watson share is a major part of the future of the team. There may have to be staffing changes at the end of the season, and they may be difficult to make. With the organization giving Watson a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract—he shapes a major part of the way the team moves forward.

Watson and Stefanski's relationship that began during their first meeting in Houston this past spring, and helped shaped Watson's vision of playing in Cleveland. Now, the contract was certainly a motivator to choose the Browns, but being confident in having success with his new team was also important.

There's a story out there that I haven't told and I’ll tell another time, but on that visit, the opportunity to be able to talk ball and just the connection that we had, it wasn't even about selling me on Cleveland and what’s here, it was just mostly just all ball," Watson said of he and Stefanski's connection. "And me and him had the opportunity to meet and talk about that and see what the future can hold and what we can really do in this system together. So that was what I was really excited about and why I was very high on Cleveland."

Moving forward, it should be expected the two of them continue their work together. The Browns don't seem poised to make a head coaching change, and without a full season with Stefanski and Watson together, it would leave nothing but question marks if they did.

But while the results of the season may not have gone the way fans hoped, within the organization, the promise of what Stefanski and Watson can do together has already started to be seen.

"I think that tandem is good. They work good together. They communicate a lot. And it's not just Deshaun in Kevin's system, it's Kevin saying, 'Hey, what's some of the stuff that you like?' said wide receiver Amari Cooper.

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