Browns Offensive Coordinator Alex Van Pelt showed players a photo of Stretch Armstrong during Wednesday’s virtual offensive meetings.
Like Armstrong, Kenner’s HAS bendy action figure from the 70s, the Browns routine has twisted and and turned in unique fashion this season. They’ve adjusted to virtual meetings, injuries to star players and several cases of COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Sione Takitaki became the latest Brown to find himself on the team’s reserve/COVID list. Takitaki, who scored on a pick-six in Sunday’s 22-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, joined defensive end Myles Garrett, tackle Chris Hubbard, fullback Andy Janovich and defensive end Joe Jackson on the list.
That’s on top of Tuesday’s announcement that Denzel Ward will miss time with a calf injury. Cleveland will travel to 1-10 Jacksonville facing significant on-field obstacles.
But according to coach Kevin Stefanski, that’s nothing new.
“No, not at all,” Stefanski said when asked if the Browns’ adverse circumstances are wearing on the team. “It’s 2020. We’re ready to go.”
Stefanski has navigated all those circumstances while learning how to be a head coach. It was only 10 months ago that the Browns introduced Stefanski. Back then, no one was talking about a pandemic or a reserve list. Just the normal new-coach discussions about ignoring the past and establishing culture.
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As Mack Wilson tweeted on Monday, Stefanski has already found success in changing the Browns’ losing culture. At 7-3, the Browns have already tied their third-highest win total since returning as an expansion team in 1995.
Center JC Tretter credited Stefanski for creating a “family atmosphere” and sticking with a consistent message since the first day the Browns hired him as coach. Baker Mayfield praised Stefanski’s in-game play-calling adjustments. Nick Chubb said Stefanski has been particularly helpful when the Browns faced strange situations such as Wednesday’s practice split.
“We all look to him in these times, and he is steady-handed,” Chubb said. “It seems like he is not really worried about everything. He knows we are going to get our work in and knows it is going to be OK so we are all following him.”
In Stefanski, the Browns seem to have chosen the right man to follow. Despite the pandemic, multiple injuries to star players (how long ago does the Odell Beckham Jr. injury feel) and a recent string of bad weather, the Browns are a playoff team through 10 weeks.
Those adaptations, Stefanski said, requires communication. Sometimes that means clear play-call signals. Others it’s telling players to keep their phones handy while the Browns decide whether to reopen their facility (that happened Wednesday).
During Wednesday’s offensive zoom meeting, communication meant Van Pelt showing the team a picture of Stretch Armstrong. The photo served as a light, important reminder that flexibility is key.
“I think Alex is just making a point to the offense in particular that you have to be flexible on days like this,” Stefanski said. “We understand and we respect the nature of how things are in our country, and we are trying to make sure everybody is safe. That is first and foremost. With that, when we are on our Zoom meetings and when we are out on the practice field, we are trying to keep it light and have fun while we are getting our work in.”
Source: Forbes – Business