Catch Joe Thomas TONIGHT at 8 p.m. when he co-hosts "Browns Live" powered by FirstEnergy with Nathan Zegura. The 100 percent fan-focused show, which will stream on all of the Browns social platforms, will feature multiple segments with Coach Kevin Stefanski, interviews with players, film breakdowns and more.
Each game week, Joe will share his insights, memories and more in this weekly column, "Cup of Joe."
Are you the type of team that wants to look for excuses? Or are you the type of team that looks for opportunity? Those are the questions a team must answer when they're hit with the kind of adversity the Browns have faced on the injury front all season long.
It doesn't matter who you are and it doesn't matter how great you are. You're going to be stuck with some adversity and it's how you view that adversity, a lot of times, that determines the path that you travel on moving forward.
The Browns have followed the right path so far, and a large amount of the credit should go to Kevin Stefanski and his staff for instilling an even-keeled mindset that has been reflected throughout the team. The alternative would not be ideal, especially with the Browns in the thick of a playoff race.
If you have that loser's mentality of looking for excuses as to why you can't get something done or use it as an opportunity to give up when something bad like Myles Garrett's and Denzel Ward's injuries happen, then all of a sudden your effort, your preparation, all those things get dialed back because in the back of your mind you feel like you've already lost. It's not necessarily the coach saying it to you, but it's the coach's mentality and the coach's attitude that affects you. It's like being a parent. Your kids see how you respond when things happen. If you have a meltdown when somebody spills some milk, they are going to have a meltdown when somebody spills milk. If you have a coach that has a little pity party for himself every time something bad happens on the sideline, that's what's going to happen with the players.
But that's not the case when you have a coach like Stefanski — who is very level headed, non-roller coaster coach — tell you, "We're just focused on the process. We're focused on getting a little bit better every single day." You don't dwell on it, you don't get sad about it, you pump up the guys that are going to be his replacements, the Porter Gustins, the Adrian Clayborns, and you talk about how this is such a great opportunity for those guys to be able to step into the spotlight and get the opportunity to prove to everybody that they deserve to be on that level and they get that opportunity to be maybe the guy that is the focus of that defense.
Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday by the Browns photo team
There are a lot of good teams in the NFL and there's a lot of good talent in the NFL, but the NFL is a game of attrition and the NFL season is almost like Survivor, where by December your team doesn't look anything like it did in September because of injuries. And the teams that typically are the most successful are the ones that A. stay the healthiest, but also B. adapt and have the most guys who are easily able to step in and pick up where the guy in front of them left off.
The second part, of course, has a lot to do with coaching, too.
One of the marks of a good coach is identifying within your system and your team the most important positions for your scheme and understanding and having that relationship with your general manager to be able to have the depth in case of injury. When I think about the Browns in this case, I think about the fifth-round selection of C Nick Harris. The Browns said, "OK, this is our offense. This is what we absolutely have to have. We need to be able to have a center who can reach a wide nose." That was one of the reasons they drafted him because they are smart and understand how important that center position is in this scheme.
And I think that they did that smartly on defense. I'm not as familiar with Joe Woods' defense as I am with offense because I obviously I played on the offense, but they were able to identify the key positions that schematically require a lot of heavy lifting. For those spots, you need to be able to have the talent to back them up and also schedule your practices throughout the season to make sure you're spending time developing the backup at that position in case of injuries.
Injuries are bound to happen in the NFL, and the Browns have unfortunately known this more than most teams this season. The last thing you want is to not have a Plan B if your Plan A gets banged up.
Through 10 games, the Browns' Plan B has been exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that's been all too familiar with doctors' orders.