HC Kevin Stefanski (9.19.23)

Opening statement:

“Injury front, like we talked about last night, Nick (Chubb) has a knee injury that will require surgery that will end his season. Talked about it last night, very disappointed for Nick. (He) means a lot to this team, means a lot to this organization. So he will be missed, but he will bounce back. Of that, I have no doubt. Greg Newsome (II) is dealing with an elbow injury. He’s day to day. You go back and watch the tape after that game, and you see our team doing things that you cannot do and win in the NFL. It’s hard to win the NFL. You can’t do some of the things we did and expect to win. The turnovers, the giveaways – four of them, two of them leading to touchdowns, some of the penalties, the field position game. We did not play well enough. So that’s the truth of it. Didn’t play well enough as a team. So, we’ll own that one. Win as a team, lose as a team. And then we got to turn our attention very quickly to Tennessee, another AFC opponent at our place. So, we have already started work on them and we’ll get going on them with the players tomorrow. With that, I’ll take any questions.”


Do you guys think that you’re going to need to add another running back and are you working on that today? Really hard to try to find somebody to replace Nick. And how do you replace a Nick Chubb? 

“Well, we are working on that, Mary Kay (Cabot). Andrew (Berry) and the personnel department is working through options. You don’t, as you know, you don’t replace Nick Chubb. You just don’t do that. Great players in the league, you look around, they go out. It’s always not one person that replaces a player of his caliber. So everybody’s got to do a little bit more, a little bit more everywhere. But we’ll look at options there in terms of who we bring in.”


After looking at the tape last night, how would you assess the offensive line play and the pressure the Steelers brought and Deshaun’s (Watson) reaction to that pressure? 

“Yeah, we obviously didn’t do enough there in protecting and it’s always – it’s multifaceted. It’s play calls, it’s technique, it’s everything, but we just didn’t do a good enough job. It’s a very good front. They pressured us from the edges and from the interior, and we made some plays but just didn’t make enough.”


Do you have any of the specifics on Nick’s injury, what he tore? 

“I don’t, Tom (Withers) and I don’t know – I think that’s one of those things, really with surgery, you’ll get a better story on what it was. You know, disappointed. I can’t say it enough. I know our team feels that way. I know our fans feel that way. And I know Nick, when you guys get to talk to him, will say the same thing, we got to move on, and we got a big one this week. We’ll miss Nick, okay. And we will support Nick, but we’re moving on to Tennessee.”


In terms of moving on with the offense, is this going to require kind of a redesign or reimagination at all of your offense? 

“I think you do that week to week, Tom, based on who’s available to you. Obviously, you lose Nick, but we have players back there that we really trust and that we like a lot. So, it does shift some things to different guys, and we’ll work through that throughout this weekend and really throughout the season.”


When you’re talking about adding a running back to that room, do you think it’d be helpful to add someone with experience, given the fact that Jerome (Ford) and Pierre (Strong Jr.) are only in their second year? 

“I think we just got to look at the options that are available, Scott (Petrak). I don’t know that there’s one specific thing that we’re looking for.”


And then on that strip sack late in the game is that just a matter of Jed’s (Wills Jr.) got to get off the line quicker to get out there to block out?

“You know, Jed had some moments that were really good. We know he’s a good player. Didn’t get off the line clean on that rep. It was unfortunate.”


Since those early plays are scripted. I want to know what happened on that first play. How did that – was there miscommunication? Why didn’t that work? 

“Yeah, we obviously didn’t connect on that play. Combination of things, but those are the things that I have a ton of trust in our guys and our quarterback and our pass receivers that we will connect on those. But that was unfortunate. Obviously, you call those plays trying to move the football, and it’s disappointing when it goes the other way. But bottom line is we got to overcome those.”


Deshaun last night said he needed to play better. The bottom line was that he needs to play better. With the short week game coming up, what’s the first step of approaching that and getting him back on track with the game right around the corner? 

“Yeah, I think we all have to play better, Cam (Camryn Justice). I got to coach better. It runs the gamut when you’re talking about winning and losing in the NFL. I think for us as an offense, I think it’s very, very obvious. We can’t turn the ball over four times. We call them giveaways. We can’t give them anything. You give credit to their team, but we have to do a better job of protecting the football. Really everybody that touches it.”


Going back to Chubb for a second. Did you get a chance to talk with him last night when you guys got back or this morning? And how is he doing? 

“Yeah, I did not get to him last night. I think he was probably asleep at that point. But I talked to him this morning. He’s in the building today, disappointed, as you all can imagine. And it’s hard because these guys put so much into this. These are very real people, and it hurts him. It hurts us. So, like I said before, we will support him in every way, and then we’re going to – best thing we can do to support him, best thing we can do to honor who Nick Chubb is, is to go out there and perform. Go out there and work. I think that ultimately is what Nick expects this team to do.”


Deshaun is taking a beating nationally, locally for his performance, and people are putting it together with last week’s performance, which we know had a lot to do with the rain. But what makes you confident that Deshaun is going to be able to work through some of the issues that he’s having right now, protect the football and run this offense efficiently? 

“Yeah, I think it’s never about one person. I completely understand that the quarterback gets way too much of the credit, way too much of the blame. That’s just life of being a quarterback in the NFL. It’s the head coach. You get all the credit, you don’t deserve it. You get all the blame, it doesn’t matter. You own it. So, I know what he’s made of. I know how he works, and I expect him to come in here and ready to work tomorrow. That’s really where the focus is.”


What did you think of the face mask penalties after you saw them again on film? 

“Yeah. Obviously, you can’t grasp it. You can’t pull it. He knows that. I don’t see that as a problem going forward.”


We know that you and Alex Van Pelt and Deshaun Watson spent countless hours redesigning offense to suit his skill set. I want to know how concerned you are, not how disappointed you are, but how concerned are you with the way it’s looking? 

“Yeah. My concern, Tony (Grossi), is we lost the game last night. We’re a 1-1 football team. We have a 1-1 football team coming to our place next week. We have to play better, particularly on offense. We have to play better. We have to take care of the ball, and we need to put our guys in a position to succeed. But in terms of [the] big picture, I really narrow my focus and just worry about what we can do better moving forward.


It’s concerning the additional running back, you need obviously for depth, are you prepared to say Jerome Ford is your feature back right now? 



Another question regarding Deshaun. He said last night that he’s still coming along, whatever that means, and while also acknowledging he needs to play better, et cetera. But from your perspective, do you feel like he’s still working his way back, knocking off rust or do you feel like that you’re seeing that he’s going to be the player that the organization traded for? 

“Yeah, I think for me, much more narrow focus than that. Darryl (Ruiter), we’re 1-1. Deshaun’s 1-1. I’m 1-1. Our team’s 1-1. That means you did enough to win the first one. We didn’t do enough to win the second one. So very simply, we got to get back to work. Short week. We’ll pour everything we got into this game. It’s the biggest game in our season because it’s the next one and it’s an AFC opponent. So, we just have to be at our best.”


Deshaun also said he needed to get rid of the ball quicker to help with the protection. How do you help him do that? 

“Yeah, going into that game, you know, when you’re playing a defense that can rush the passer, it’s a combination of things. Obviously, you want to play on time and get the ball out. That requires people to get open quickly and win versus certain coverages quickly. Obviously, you have to protect. So, it’s always a combination of things. And sometimes you’re holding on to the ball a little bit longer and you’re providing help to your tackles or it’s extra play action, whatever it may be. So it’s always a combination of things.”


Was there any concern and now relief that he won’t have discipline for that contact with the official? 

“Yeah, I didn’t see it, so I really can’t speak to it.”


One more on Deshaun. A lot of his passes just seem to be off target. Do you have a theory of why that is? 

“Yeah, I think always a combination of things, Jeff (Schudel). When you’re talking about the pass game, to be precise in the pass game, you need great protection. You need great footwork from the quarterback position. You need guys to run routes at proper depth. We as coaches have to design it as such and get people in those spots. So, it’s never one thing you’re going to miss throws. That’s also part of football. There’s plenty of good out there on tape. We just got to build off of it.”


I know in the locker room after the game, a lot of the guys were deflated and they said, you got the heart and soul of the team. How as the head coach, do you approach this with morale again on that short week to get these guys rallied around after losing a guy that was so important? 

“Yeah, we talked about it last night, Cam. We’ll continue to talk about it. I think everyone, again, you guys, our fans, know how important Nick is to this team. But Nick wants this team to go perform. Nick wants this team to go practice. Nick wants this team, obviously, to go win, but more than anything, he wants this team to make sure that the focus is on doing the things that we need to do to go win games. So that’s what we’ll do. Very quickly, you have to turn the page. Like I told you guys last week, you got to let those wins go really fast, and you got to let those losses go really fast. You get rid of those – win, lose or draw. In this case, we’re disappointed, but have a great opportunity with an AFC opponent coming to our place on Sunday.”


It seems like at least through the first two games, when Watson goes off the opening script of plays, he tends to lean one target the entire game. Yesterday was (Amari) Cooper. I’m not sure the numbers, but (David) Njoku, Elijah Moore, DPJ (Donovan Peoples-Jones) only had the one target at the end. Are you concerned with the distribution? You got a lot of new players, a lot of new targets, and he doesn’t seem to be distributing the ball to them. 

“Yeah, I think we have good players, Tony. The time always comes, and there will be more opportunities for guys. You mentioned David, you mentioned Elijah, guys that we think very highly of. It’s really a game-to-game basis. You really design the plays to go to different guys at times, and then the coverage dictates where the ball goes.”


I know it’s early, but have you and Andrew had any discussions about the possibility of bringing Kareem Hunt back and how would he fit in this offense if you guys did bring him back? 

“Yeah, we’re early stages of looking at different options right now, so I can’t really speak to anybody specific.”


Za’Darius (Smith) had to leave the game for a little bit. Is he going to be okay? Do you have an update there? 

“I don’t really have an update. We’ll treat him – he went back in the game, but I don’t have an update.”


# # #


***Visit the Browns Media Center for materials provided by the Browns communications department, including media schedules, press releases, quotes, photos, media guides, rosters, depth charts and more.***