Former Vikings Coach Allegedly on Hot Seat

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The Minnesota Vikings were chided a bit by fans after the 2019 season concluded for not retaining Kevin Stefanski, who was hired by the Cleveland Browns in 2020.

Some wanted former Vikings skipper head coach Mike Zimmer to be the sacrificial lamb while keeping Stefanski in-house.

Former Vikings Coach Allegedly on Hot Seat

That didn’t happen, Stefanski jaunted to Cleveland as head coach, and the Vikings wound up with Kevin O’Connell two years later.

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski watches from the sideline during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. © Jeff Lange via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

Now, though, Stefanski could be on the ‘hot seat,’ according to Bleacher Report. Alex Kay nominated six head coaches for the naughty distinction, and Stefanski made the cut.

“It’s time for Kevin Stefanski to prove his value to the Cleveland Browns. The coach has been with the club since 2020 but hasn’t had a winning season since his first year. While that inaugural campaign was a special one—resulting in Cleveland’s best record since it returned to the league in 1999 and its first postseason berth since 2002—the Browns have regressed in each of the last two years,” BR’s Kay explained.

Allegedly on Hot
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On Stefanski’s watch, the Browns are 26-24 (.520), the 17th-best record in football since the start of 2020. Guiding Cleveland to the postseason — and winning against their most hated foe, Pittsburgh, was almost like a Super Bowl trophy by Browns standards — earned the young coach a lot of goodwill.

Kay elaborated on the expectations for maligned quarterback Deshaun Watson, “Deshaun Watson’s presence should elevate the Browns significantly. Although he joined the team last offseason, an 11-game suspension limited the impact the quarterback was able to make in 2022. With a full season finally ahead of him for the first time since 2020 — the last of his three Pro Bowl campaigns—Watson will be expected to deliver plenty of Ws this season.”

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Watson was terrible in his first suspension-shortened season with the Browns, diming just 7 touchdown passes in 6 starts, with 5 interceptions. Cleveland was 3-3 (.500) when the controversial signal-caller returned to the field.

“If Stefanski fails with this group, the team will likely be forced to go a different direction in the offseason. Given the Browns lack salary-cap flexibility and not having a first-round pick again in 2024, a coaching change would be the most sensible path forward,” Kay concluded about the temperature of Stefanski’s seat.

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Stefanski also possesses the disadvantage of living in a brutal division. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cincinnati Bengals all have eyes on playoff berths — and why wouldn’t they? Each team’s roster, the Browns included, suggests it could make a push at the postseason, if only a Wildcard spot.

Other coaches on the hot seat per Kay? Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys), Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers), Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints), Ron Rivera (Washington Commanders), and Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders).

Stefanski’s Browns play the Bengals out of the gate in September — a beefy test to begin Stefanski’s tell-all year.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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