Kevin Stefanski Says Myles Garrett Is The League’S Best Defensive Player And ‘It’S Not Close’

Kevin Stefanski says Myles Garrett is the league’s best defensive player and ‘it’s not close’

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Editor’s note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Second thoughts on Browns 20-17 win over Chicago Bears …  

1. Myles Garrett’s sack-less drought has now reached a career-high four games in a row. Stalled at 13 sacks on the season, Garrett has dropped to seventh in the pass rush derby and is three sacks behind league-leader T.J. Watt of Pittsburgh. But don’t count him out of defensive player-of-the-year consideration. Last week defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said he’d “never seen him rush so well” and termed his pass rush win percentage “unbelievable.” On Monday, head coach Kevin Stefanski used the same superlative. “The way Myles is playing is unbelievable,” Stefanski said. He proceeded to step on his personal soap box and made an impassioned pitch for Garrett as DPOY. “He’s the best player on the best defense in the league right now,” Stefanski said. “I think what happens with our game, we get so wrapped up in sacks … he makes a play on a crack toss late in the game that loses six yards. And if it’s a sack, people think it adds to the statistics, or whatever. He’s dominant as a defensive player, so he’s the defensive player of the year. I don’t think it’s close.”

2. Garrett’s tirade against the officials for ignoring holding calls against him in the Jacksonville game didn’t help his cause, as it turned out. He was routinely mauled again by the Bears and no flags were thrown. “I mean, he’s frustrated. I’m frustrated when he’s getting held. That’s something that we’ll continue to talk to the officials about,” Stefanski said. “And I understand that’s a tough gig, but I do think it’s something that we need to make sure that is addressed.” Garrett has done a good job of not letting the frustration get to him on the field. He approached one official after getting tackled against the Bears but thought better of it and turned to the sideline. If coaches and players voted on the award, Garrett probably would win in a landslide because they see on game video how he affects the quarterback and disrupts offenses. “I mean, just talk about the guy that affects the game, that pressures the quarterback, that plays the run, that plays with unbelievable effort,” Stefanski said. “I don’t know that there’s anybody in the same realm as him.”

3. Another defensive player has been able to pile up stats and is having a career year. It’s linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Through 14 games, JOK now has surpassed career season highs in tackles (84), sacks (3.5), quarterback hits (5) and has almost doubled his career tackles-for-loss with 18 (his prior two-year total was 10). “He was all over the place making high-impact plays in some really important moments,” Stefanski said. Among them was an 11-yard sack of Justin Fields followed by a stop of Roschon Johnson on third down with 6:10 to play that turned the ball over to the Browns’ offense. That set up the Browns’ tying touchdown.

4. JOK also got his first interception of the season by catching a rebound of Fields’ first Hail Mary into the end zone at the end of the first half. JOK was not on the field for the Hail Mary at the end of the game, which bounced off the belly and hands of Bears receiver Darnell Mooney before landing in the arms of Browns safety D’Anthony Bell. I asked JOK if defending a Hail Mary is as nerve-wracking as watching it is for fans. “When the ball is up in the air for so long and everybody’s staring at it, you want to make sure that you can find your right spot,” he said. “I just stayed on the ground and was waiting for the ball to tip because usually, that’s what happens. And as you saw in the last one, the ball tipped again. On about 90 percent of those plays, the ball [is] tipped somewhere. That’s definitely not necessarily nerve-wracking, but it’s more of just wanting to execute, wanting to make sure the ball is on the ground or make sure that you gain possession of that ball. I guess that’s a better way to answer it.”

Marquise Goodwin's 57-yard catch was the second-longest pass play of the season. (Cleveland Browns)


5. A few unsung plays were as strategic to the Browns’ win as Joe Flacco’s amazing fourth quarter passing display. The first was cornerback Cameron Mitchell’s shoestring trip-up of Fields on an RPO run on fourth-and-1 at the Browns’ 33-yard line. The Bears were ahead, 17-7, with 14:53 to play. Fields’ dive for the first down came up 8 inches short. Bears coach Matt Eberflus cited it as “a momentum play” denied. “We're there in their scoring zone. We're outside the kick line, and all of the sudden we make that play and then you go up, it's 20-7 or it's 24-7 at that time. That was the momentum play. Those are the plays we've got to make,” Eberflus said. The turnover on downs led to the next unsung play – a 57-yard catch by Marquise Goodwin. It led to a field goal to cut the deficit to 17-10. It was the second-longest pass play of the year for the Browns and only Goodwin’s fourth reception of the year, as no other quarterback has been able to get him the ball. Look for more of that to come with Flacco behind center. On Chicago’s ensuing possession, defensive end Alex Wright stopped receiver Tyler Scott for a 3-yard loss on a jet sweep run on third-and-1. Wright also had his first sack of the year and forced fumble in the game. “Alex is balling out,” Garrett said.