‘Low mileage’ works against Browns’ head coach

‘Low mileage’ works against Browns’ head coach

When a guy (me) buys a 17-year-old, low-mileage car in the summer, one would think the first thing he’d do during the test drive is check out the air-conditioning. (I did.)

And after just a few minutes on a winding country road, it was freezing cold inside the vehicle.

“I’m gonna buy it,” were the words silently circulating within the cabin. “This is the one!”

But in the excitement of scoring such an affordable, rust-free gem only a couple of hours from home, would it ever enter a guy’s mind to test the heater? (I didn’t.)

So on that first 30-something morning a few days ago, it was time to pay the piper. Honestly, I was OK with the repair bill because it’s always a case of risk vs. reward when a guy (me) goes used-car shopping. I realize the car will need a new exhaust system soon too. But with a little patience and cash, the overall reward will be owning a vehicle I can keep for several years of happy motoring.

Come March, the trusty little gas-sipper with the “bowtie” on the front even will make the trip down to Florida for my son’s wedding. Needless to say, looking forward to the ride to the Sunshine State — where I’ll need air-conditioning again — and back.

As you may have guessed by now, there’s a moral to the story, especially after the Browns suffered another loss last Sunday. Some of Cleveland’s squeaky wheels were heard calling for the head of head coach Kevin Stefanski.

It dawned on me that Stefanski and my precious everyday driver have quite a bit in common. Let’s reverse gears to a couple of years ago when the Browns went shopping for a new man to steer the wobbling franchise in the right direction — even in roundabouts. Stefanski wasn’t the only option, but the powers that be concluded he was the best option.

There were no guarantees they’d landed a Super Bowl roadster. There were, though, high expectations and the hope that the rewards would far outweigh the risks. Reeling in Stefanski was kind of like finding that previously owned car that is almost too good to be true.

Well, the test drive last season was promising, for sure. Stefanski and the Browns got through a pandemic and even won a playoff game over their plucky rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Upon his arrival Stefanski transformed the Browns’ culture, taking the reins of a poorly coached team with a bad locker room.

Along the route Stefanski was rewarded for his efforts by being named NFL Coach of the Year, the first Browns coach to receive the honor since 1975 and the first following the franchise’s 1999 return as an expansion team.

Now the winter of 2021-22 is nearly here, and the Browns’ heater isn’t pumping out hot air like it should. It’s a chilling reality for the Dawg Pounders.

Yet those who know the NFL best understand “low mileage” might be a great selling point for a second-hand car, but not so good for a second-year head coach doing his best to navigate blown fuses, blown coverages and potholes aplenty.

After Sunday’s breakdown at the hands of the New England Patriots, Stefanski wasn’t just engaging in “coachspeak” when he took the blame. When he said he and his assistants were outcoached and his team was outplayed, he knew what he was talking about.

Winners like Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and, yes, even Mike Tomlin have an edge. It’s called experience, and there’s no shortcut on the map that can help Stefanski overcome his decided disadvantage in that category.

Maybe the Chiefs and Patriots didn’t exactly set the world on fire early on. But watch them play. In case you haven’t noticed, they’ve been to the repair shop and are firing on all cylinders now. The Steelers may have had bald tires against the winless Lions last Sunday. But at 5-3-1, Pittsburgh and its aging QB still have traction over the 5-5 Browns in the AFC North.

Speaking of 0-8-1 Detroit, the Lions come to FirstEnergy Stadium this Sunday, just in time to help the Browns wrench on some of their exhaust leaks and spongy suspension parts. Cleveland has no choice but to change the oil, refuel and try to get back on the road to respectability.

As for the like-new, old Chevy, I can always put her in the garage for the winter. Keep her warm, dry and out of the snow, grime and salt. Crank the engine every now and then. Or hook up the Battery Tender.

The Browns’ options are much more limited. If they want to end the season as one of the NFL’s smokin’ hot contenders, they’ll need to take internal combustion to new levels.