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Browns’ Kevin Stefanski wants ‘best version of Deshaun’ Watson in 2024 as QB works way back from injury

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The first two years of the Cleveland BrownsDeshaun Watson experience can be summed up in one word: disappointing. 

Watson, a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback (all with the Houston Texans), has battled both rust — after sitting out the entire 2021 season and the first 11 games of the 2022 season after having a number of lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct filed against him — and injuries in Cleveland. He has started just 12 games since 2022, and his production ranks near the bottom of the NFL in multiple key passing metrics. A fractured shoulder that required surgery cut his 2023 campaign short just after Week 10. 

Entering his third season of the five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract the Browns signed him to upon trading six draft picks to the Texans — including three first-round selections — to acquire him, Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski desires much more out of Watson in 2024 and beyond.

“We always talk about how we want the best version of ourselves. I want the best version of Deshaun,” Stefanski said on “The Rich Eisen Show” on Thursday. “He is constantly getting better. I see so many of the veterans. … Every single year you challenge them to get better. Even the guys who are at the height of their craft. Look at Myles Garrett, who is coming off being Defensive Player of the Year. He will be challenged by both of us, and I know he does this to himself, he needs to get better, and there are things he can do to get better.”

Watson as a Cleveland Brown (since 2022)

Watson  NFL Rank* 

Comp Pct

59.8%

41st

Pass Yards/Att

6.5

36th

TD-INT

14-9

31st

Passer Rating

81.7

37th

* Among 45 QBs with 300+ pass attempts

Watson led the NFL in passing yards (4,823) and passing yards per attempt (8.9) in 2020, his last season played with the Texans, while ranking second in the entire league in passer rating (112.4) behind only that year’s MVP Aaron Rodgers (121.5). That’s the Watson Stefanski and the entire Browns organization sold the farm to acquire two years ago, and it’s the version they need to see of him in 2024 if they are to actually make a run in a loaded AFC that includes the back-to-back Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.  

“I know Deshaun is in the same boat, he wants to be better, he wants to play better, every single game, every single year,” Stefanski said. “I’m excited for where he is right this minute with plenty of work to do. I know he’s going to continue to get better and get healthy. But I’m excited about Deshaun.”

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