The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of sweeping changes to the offensive coaching staff, and one of their most decorated members expressed his opinion on the moves Tuesday night.
Left guard Joel Bitonio spoke with reporters at the 24th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards on the evening of January 23. Media members asked the five-time All-Pro about the Browns’ decision to fire offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, which is the biggest decision the organization has made to this point in the offseason.
“I loved AVP. He was a great guy and did a lot of good things for us,” Bitonio said, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “I know him and [head coach Kevin] Stefanski and really the whole staff did a great job of getting us in the right plays. I knew nothing about [Van Pelt’s] until I saw it on Twitter like everybody else, so it’s always a little bit of surprise.”
Bitonio commented further, indicating that the choice to move on from Van Pelt may have been more Stefanski’s than that of general manager Andrew Berry.
“I think Coach Stefanski just wants to continue to tweak things. He did some things on defense last year and some things on offense now this year and special teams as well last year,” Bitonio added. “But I have nothing but good things to say about a AVP. He was a great dude. He truly embodied that play-for-your-brother attitude with us, and you never want to see guys leave.”
CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson was the first to report Cleveland’s decision to fire Van Pelt, running backs coach Stump Mitchell and tight ends coach T.C. McCartney on January 17. In addition, Anderson noted in her report that “some player [were] upset from the news.”
The call was somewhat curious considering the Browns offense, and particularly the passing game, clicked under Van Pelt’s guidance once the team brought in quarterback Joe Flacco and elevated him into a starting role. Flacco averaged more than 300 yards passing across a 4-1 run that landed Cleveland the No. 5 seed in the AFC.
RB Nick Chubb Among Browns’ Possible Cap Casualties
The Houston Texans rolled over the Browns on Super Wild Card Weekend by a score of 45-14, in part because Flacco threw back-to-back interceptions on the offense’s first two drives of the second half — both of which Texans defenders returned for touchdowns.
That said, Cleveland’s top-rated defense allowed 24 first-half points, as Houston quarterback CJ Stroud picked the secondary apart. He had time to do so because 2023 Defensive Player of the Year Myles Garrett and company failed to get home even once on the day, producing zero sacks in the defeat.
The Browns offense is likely in store for some changes to its offensive scheme, which might include significant additions and/or subtractions from the roster.
One player whose future is in question is four-time Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb. Chubb is coming off of a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 that requires two surgeries to repair. He is entering the final year of his $36.6 million contract in 2024, and the team can save more than $11.8 million by cutting or trading Chubb this offseason.