Kevin Stefanski has done a phenomenal job in his first season as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, helping the franchise reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002. However, the Browns will have to play their first postseason game in nearly two decades without their coach, as Stefanski is one of five members of the organization who have tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the upcoming game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Along with Stefanski, two coaches and two players tested positive and all five will not be available for the game. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the coaches are a tight ends coach and defensive backs coach, while NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on Twitter that left guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge are the two players who tested positive.
The Browns were forced to shut down team facilities five times over the last 10 days to conduct contact tracing, as they have been forced to play without several key players over the last several weeks due to positive tests. While the team has managed to prevent a full-on outbreak, it is clear that they have not succeeded in completely stopping the spread.
With Stefanski out, special teams coach Mike Priefer is set to take over play-calling duties for the team. For now, the game between the Browns and Steelers is not expected to be canceled or delayed. The NFL’s strategy for COVID-19 has primarily been a race to the finish line and while the success of that strategy has been, at best, questionable, the league seems primarily concerned with simply being able to finish the season.