Cleveland Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski Unconcerned With Deshaun Watson’s Shaky Debut

by Nick Geddes

It was always going to take time for quarterback Deshaun Watson to gel with the Cleveland Browns, and head coach Kevin Stefanski knows that.

It had been 19 months since Deshaun Watson took a snap under center in the NFL and it showed Friday night. Starting in the team’s first preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Watson went 1-of-5 for a measly seven yards. His first throw summed up the performance — an overthrow of a wide-open Anthony Schwartz downfield.

Not the ideal opening act for Watson in Cleveland, but not worrisome for Stefanski. The third-year head coach was peppered with questions about Watson after the Browns’ 24-13 victory and admitted his quarterback had “jitters” coming into the game.

“I think he probably wants some throws back,” Stefanski said, via Pro Football Talk. “Obviously, playing football for the first time in a while, I thought it was important to get out there with his teammates in this scheme, just hearing a different voice in the helmet, those type of things. I’m sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early. But I think he understands there’s work to do.”

Deshaun Watson Makes Cleveland Browns Debut With Suspension Looming

Deshaun Watson took to the field as his off-the-field issues persist. He was handed a six-game suspension last week for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. The NFL is appealing and looking for a more severe punishment. That didn’t stop Stefanski from wanting to get a look at his new quarterback, who inked a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal this offseason.

Stefanski said he didn’t feel the drama surrounding Watson impacted his performance.

“I think this was important for him to get out there in a game setting, under the lights, with new teammates and go operate,” Stefanski said. “It wasn’t going to be perfect. And even if it was perfect, you can’t overreact to that either. So I just think it was all part of the progression for him.”

Deshaun Watson, however, did conduct a two-minute interview with CBS Sports reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala before the game. Watson issued his first public apology since being accused of sexual assault and misconduct during massage sessions by 25 women.

“I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation,” Watson said. “The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward.”

Asked about Watson’s apology, Stefanski had the following to say.

“I’ve been around Deshaun now for a few months, and I know he wants to grow,” Stefanski said. “I know that he does. And that’s personally; that’s professionally. And I think he’s very, very serious about doing that.