Steve Doerschuk: Kevin Stefanski needs to come off stubborn streak and keep open mind about Baker Mayfield

Steve Doerschuk
The Repository

The Browns did their best at Baltimore to limit the number of people who will miss them while they are gone.

"We've got to unplug for a minute," Kevin Stefanski said as his team wrapped up a grim trip to Baltimore and ran for the bye week.

Anybody know a good electrician? One who is half magician?

More:Kevin Stefanski throws up hands: 'We get four interceptions and we get no points off it!'

A chance to plug into a playoff race got wrecked by a thoroughly disconnected performance by the offense in a 16-10 loss.

One could say this was the biggest game of what was supposed to be a big year, but that wouldn't rhyme with the lost look and feel of the previous week's squeaker against the Lions.

You need to look like a threat to be in a big game.

The defense actually did look imposing reasonably often at Baltimore, but what difference did that make when the offense was so inept?

Nobody understands what is wrong with the attack.

Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey even misunderstood who he was going to be facing.

"I was a little surprised they came out throwing," Humphrey said. "They had (Rashard) Higgins and (Anthony) Schwartz inactive. I didn’t expect that. So thought it would be much more a running game. 

"But yes, they came out throwing, and they had a couple open passes."

Maybe the game would have unfolded differently if one of the open passes hadn't been a red-zone drop by Donovan People-Jones, leading to a missed field goal.

At one key point Baker Mayfield tried a third-down pass to Demetric Felton, the last player the Browns picked in this year's draft.

"I don't know why Kareem Hunt wasn't in the game," NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said.

Stefanski said Hunt was limited at one point by "tightness" in a leg.

OK.

Mayfield has appeared limited by injuries all over his body.

Mayfield, who went 18-of-37 passing, has spent his recent performing life limping around, grimacing, operating erratically, and carrying a humorless, pained expression on his face.

Stefanski stubbornly declines to consider playing Case Keenum, and at this point what's the difference? The flow of this season is a river headed for the falls.

Here's the difference: 

Playing Keenum might prevent Mayfield's injuries from snowballing into something that will dog him in 2022. 

Keenum's lone 2021 start looks all the more impressive as the weeks go along. He was efficient in a 17-14 win over Denver, which has turned into a nice little team with a 6-5 record. 

Giving Keenum another start a week later against Pittsburgh seemed like a great idea. Mayfield played, and the offense couldn't possibly have been worse behind Keenum than it was in losing 15-10 behind Mayfield.

It was more of the same at Baltimore. The offense couldn't possibly have been worse had a healthy Keenum played. The guess is it would have been better.

Sure, the Browns need to assess whether to pay Mayfield, and how much. The Browns need to do a lot of things. One is to look way better RIGHT NOW than they did Sunday night.

Stefanski needs to rethink this one during the bye.

The bye won't help him with the serious problem of losing right tackle Jack Conklin.

After he exited with an injury, early, the running game was mostly invisible.

"Nick Chubb is a star running back and one of the best running backs in the league," said Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser. "We know that if he gets going, it could be a problem, so we definitely had to make sure we didn’t let him get started.”

It got a lot easier for Baltimore to "make sure" with Conklin out of the game.

Life is getting more and more difficult for Stefanski. 

Last year, he was NFL Coach of the Year. This year, he leads the league in accountability.

"We’re just not doing a good enough job," he said, "and that starts with me.” 

The first 12 games have been exhausting. There's something to be said about "unplugging" for the bye.

Don't be long, though. This team needs to do some serious hunting for a herd of lightning bolts.

Reach Steve at steve.doerschuk@gannett.com

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP