Nov. 21—Myles Garrett is like a foreign ambassador with diplomatic immunity. His love of dinosaurs, selfless dedication to providing fresh water to impoverished African communities and his reputation of being a great defensive end — not to mention his current $125 million contract with $100 million guaranteed — gives him license to rip his coaches in subtle ways.
The Browns, 3-7 and losers of six of their last seven games, have three interceptions and five fumble recoveries. Only the Saints (seven) and Raiders (six) have fewer takeaways.
"It just has to be more of an emphasis in practice," Garrett told reporters in Detroit on Nov. 20 after the Browns had zero takeaways in a 31-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills. "It has been a lack of importance when we go out there and practice. It has to be more important to us if we want to force those takeaways in the game."
Garrett's remarks, and not for the first time, are a jab at defensive coordinator Joe Woods and by extension head coach Kevin Stefanski. Garrett and linebacker Jeremiah Owuse Koramoah lead the Browns with two forced fumbles each.
"Myles speaks for Myles." Stefanski said Nov. 21 during a Zoom call. "I will talk to him about it. I know this: We put a lot of emphasis on takeaways in our building. We haven't gotten them. That's been our issue. In these games, we have to take the football away, and we'll look for ways to do that."
Stefanski was asked directly about critics wanting Woods fired.
"My focus is on us getting better," Stefanski said. "My focus is on us getting a win versus Tampa and playing good offense, playing good defense and playing good special teams. That is where my focus is."
Stefanski's plate is full. The easiest part of his week must be on game day during the three hours he is calling plays. From now until 1 p.m. Nov. 27 when the Browns play the Buccaneers at FirstEnergy Stadium, he has to keep his team focused and do what he can to prevent players from publicly criticizing each other (that hasn't happened yet) or criticizing coaches.
Stefanski also knows fans are frustrated. But as former Browns general manager Phil Savage famously once said, when a coach or general manager makes moves to appease fans he soon will be sitting with them.
"When you're 3-7, there is frustration," Stefanski said. "That's what we are today, 3-7. The bottom line is every person in this building — players, coaching staff and you name it — have to have that attitude of fixing anything that needs to be fixed. That's where our focus is today.
"We all share in 3-7. I get that there's negativity that comes with that. We're going to focus on what we can do better and focus on things that we can control. What we control this week is finding a way to go get a win."
Tight end David Njoku said the players are 100 percent together, that there is no finger pointing going on in the locker room. He also said the players are 100 percent to blame for the Browns' record not being better.
"It's a frustrating position to be in, especially with the potential we have as a team,'" Njoku said. "So obviously, things just tend to not go our way and it is what it is. I feel no sympathy for myself or anybody here.
"No one got us here in this position besides ourselves and we're a team. With that being said, it falls on all of us. We're all a team and we all got to do this together."
The loss to the Bills drops the Browns to the 13th seed among the 16 AFC teams. Four division teams plus three wild cards make the playoffs.
Center Ethan Pocic suffered a knee injury against the Bills that will sideline him "weeks," Stefanski said. Hjalte Froholdt, who replaced Pocic, will continue as the starting center until Pocic returns.