On Tuesday, major NFL news broke when it was made public Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski had tested positive for COVID-19, and would miss the playoff game vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday night.
I have to admit, when the news broke, I did my job and wrote up the story, but it was something which happened after publishing the story which I didn’t realize. I had no clue Stefanski was the play caller for the Browns.
Suddenly, the loss of Stefanski meant a heck of a lot more.
This wouldn’t be a situation like the Steelers would face if Mike Tomlin were to miss a game for whatever reason. Tomlin isn’t calling offensive, or defensive plays. He certainly has a say in what takes place, and has the final say on some critical decisions, but a team missing their play caller is a big deal.
Don’t believe me? Take Ben Roethlisberger’s word for it, as he was asked that very question during his Wednesday media availability.
“I think it’s a big deal. I would think so.” Roethlisberger said. “There is something to be said about that comfort blanket. There is something to be said about that guy you have the relationship with that is calling the plays.
“I don’t know up there how much their OC is involved and those kinds of things. Some places their OC, quarterbacks’ coach all those guys do everything and then the play caller just calls it in. Not sure how they do it up there. To me it would be a big deal not to have Coach Randy [Fichtner] on game day in my ear.”
As Roethlisberger points out, no one knows exactly what, or how, the Browns handle their offensive play calling duties on game days, but it is certainly something work noting. Maybe not from the actual play calling, but the entire process. Will the man now tasked with calling the plays in take longer, will Baker Mayfield have to ask him to repeat calls and will there be delay of games or timeouts called as a result?
Just another wrinkle in this unique 2020 NFL season and the approaching AFC Playoffs. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Browns for their first playoff game since 2017.