It’s that time of year.
With the holidays comes the beginning of the media (and fan) speculation as to which NFL coaches could be fired after Week 18.
The latest one up for consideration is Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski.
Should he be on the hot seat?
Is his job in jeopardy?
The answer is no, and here is why.
3. Reigning NFL Coach Of The Year
#Browns Kevin Stefanski is the AP's Coach of the Year.
First Cleveland coach since Forrest Gregg in 1976.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) February 7, 2021
What kind of messed up world is it if the reigning NFL Coach of the Year is fired the following season?
Of course, the NFL is a league about results and past performance does not always factor in.
The fact is Stefanski was a rookie coach in 2020.
He took the improbable Browns on a crazy ride ending with an 11-5 regular season record and a Wild Card playoff win.
While his second season has not been as successful as his rookie year, the reigning Coach of the Year did not perform so poorly that he deserves to be fired.
2. Browns Are Still In Playoff Hunt
— Fred Greetham (@FredGreetham9) December 27, 2021
The 2021 preseason predictions for the Browns had them as potential AFC champions.
The reality is the Browns are 7-8 and lost six games by a margin of six points or fewer.
What could have been had the Browns won at least half of those games?
But it is not all over for the 2021 Browns.
The AFC North is so tight that ever single team still has a path to winning the division.
AFC North Standings through Week 16:
— The Cincinnati Chronicle (@CincyChronicle) December 27, 2021
The Browns can still win the division but do not completely control their destiny.
Browns fans spent decades not being involved in meaningful late season football games.
Even though the Browns have yet to meet those preseason expectations, they are still in contention.
1. Injuries And COVID-19 Took A Toll
I will say one thing tho. This Browns team, under a sophomore HC, under tiring covid issues, injuries and all else, have the heart of a lion. And nothing will change my mind #Browns
— CleWest (@erjmanlasvegas) December 26, 2021
This is not a comment intended to say that the Browns had it worse than any other team.
All NFL teams dealt with significant injuries and COVID-19 this year.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield had both.
His injured shoulder in Week 2 has put him in a position to play hurt and in need of surgery from practically the beginning of the year.
There are plenty of separate arguments to be had about Mayfield’s effectiveness and some of the outside noise that plagued the Browns this year.
However, Stefanski did what he could to keep this team moving forward and focused on the task at hand.
Though Stefanski does not deserve to be fired, the Browns front office and GM Andrew Berry do have some serious decisions to make in the offseason.
Some involve Mayfield’s future, but position players should all be evaluated especially those on special teams and the wide receivers.
Play-calling duties and who should handle them also needs to be revisited; Stefanski did it this year except when he had COVID-19 and OC Alex Van Pelt filled in.
The offense sputtered this year so that needs to be sorted out before the 2022 season kicks off.
There are too many talented young players in the prime of their career on this roster to not improve each season.NEXT: Baker Mayfield Reacts To Raiders Loss