cleveland brown finally made $30.5 signing today ‘new QB will join us immediately…..

Cleveland brown finally made $30.5 signing today ‘new QB will join us immediately…..


Joe Flacco’s play-action prowess allows Kevin Stefanski to play to his strengths

CLEVELAND, OHIO - DECEMBER 10: Quarterback Joe Flacco #15 of the Cleveland Browns passes during the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 10, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND — With four games left for the Cleveland Browns and the playoffs ever so tantalizingly close, here we go again. Another new quarterback, another evolving play sheet.

One of Kevin Stefanski’s greatest strengths as a play caller is his ability to adapt to the personnel and skill sets of whoever is coming in next. In a season when one-fourth of the Browns’ cap sheet is mending on IR, the crumpled sheets of paper in the corner trash can mount with every change at quarterback. Now the arrival of Joe Flacco has allowed Stefanski to play a bit more to his strengths.

Even the most flexible coaches still have their core tenets, and one of those for Stefanski is play action. We can safely label Stefanski as a coach who believes strongly in the play-action game. It’s a big part of what he likes doing on offense, and the numbers reveal how much more effective it is to do in his system from under center rather than out of shotgun

Joe Flacco has found comfort in leading a Browns team he’s learning on the fly

Stefanski is such a believer in play action that when he met with Deshaun Watson during the Browns’ initial visit in Rusty Hardin’s Houston law office, one of Watson’s questions was what Stefanski saw on film that the quarterback could do better. Stefanski immediately mentioned cleaning up his ball fakes and doing a better job on play action.

After the Browns rallied to beat the Ravens this year in Baltimore, Watson told me he’s still more comfortable out of the shotgun than he is under center because it’s all he’s ever really done. He operated almost exclusively out of shotgun at Clemson and 75 percent of the time in Houston, according to the data. But he was willing to go under center more in Cleveland and give it a chance because Stefanski kept encouraging it.

Even with the increased focus on going under center, Watson was still operating out of shotgun on two-thirds of his snaps this year with the Browns, according to TruMedia data. Ultimately, he broke his shoulder in that Ravens game and never took another snap.

Now with Flacco at quarterback, the split has been more evenly balanced between shotgun and under center. This isn’t to say that one style works and the other doesn’t. It’s simply pointing out the trends of both Stefanski and the Browns’ offense.

Even offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt acknowledged Thursday that the Browns are dipping back into more of the Jacoby Brissett plays from last year now that Flacco is under center.

“It’s just a different approach (from under center),” Van Pelt said. “We did a lot of the stuff, same type of plays from the gun. It does have a little more pull in the play-action game when you get under center. That’s definitely true.”

It’s a small sample size, but Flacco has been under center for 48 percent of the Browns’ offensive snaps the last two weeks. That’s right in line with his career average, according to TruMedia. It’s the most any of the Browns’ quarterbacks this year have lined up under center. By comparison, Brissett was under center for 44 percent of his snaps last season.

Here’s why that matters: The Browns gain 7.9 yards per play when using play action as opposed to 5.3 yards on straight dropbacks. It’s a significant increase made more effective by quarterbacks willing to carry it out properly.

Flacco is a traditional pocket quarterback who is excellent at play action. His touchdown pass to David Bell in the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday was a straight drop out of shotgun. Flacco did a nice job of feeling the pressure and drifting right to buy Bell enough time to get open downfield. But both of his touchdown throws to David Njoku came off play action. His fake to Kareem Hunt on the Browns’ first score was so good it sucked a Jags defender into believing it was a run.

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