By: Tom Maugeri
Just when you thought the Cleveland Browns had finally overcome their demons, they found a way to prove you wrong.
It’s been a head scratching season for this Cleveland team, but last Thursday seemed to represent a turning point. That is, at least, until they remembered that they were still the Cleveland Browns.
With the fourth quarter winding down in a 21-7 game, the Browns were getting ready to celebrate what was a huge win for them. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense had been downright scary the last few weeks, spurring a four game win streak over the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, and Los Angeles Rams.
Pittsburgh was red hot coming into Thursday night and they were ready to take on a Browns team that has continued to scuffle this season for some reason.
However, none of that seemed to matter on Thursday night.
The Browns pulled it together and thanks in large part to their defense, they were able to pull out the win. It did not come without controversy though.
With 14 seconds left in the game, Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett tackled quarterback Mason Rudolph in what was undoubtedly a late hit. Rudolph then seemed to attempt to take off Garrett’s helmet, failed, had his own helmet taken off by Garrett, and then proceeded to watch as Garrett swung the helmet into his head.
For the first time in recent Browns history, all they had to do was nothing, and they would have something to celebrate.
Even that proved to be too much.
Instead of the talk around the league focusing on how the Browns had secured a huge victory, the league discussion now centered around this play.
Just when things could not possibly get worse for Cleveland, their defensive end uses his helmet as a weapon.
It just adds on to what has been a horrific year for this Browns team, partly due to the fact that they had such high expectations heading into the season. There were even some that pegged them as possible Super Bowl contenders.
Sitting at 5-6 isn’t the worst thing in the world for them, especially when one considers how bad this team has been in years past, but it is still far from where they thought they would be at this point in the season.
A lot of that has to do with Freddie Kitchens.
Kitchens got the head coaching job during the off-season in part due to how the Browns ended the season last year.
Mayfield looked tremendous in Kitchens’ offense, so the natural thought was that he would only get better with more time in the same system. As far as that being the case, well, the jury is still out.
Mayfield has shown flashes of what he can do, but there’s been nearly nothing consistent from him. According to ESPN, he ranks 17th in the league in total QBR at a crisp 52.9. No quarterback with Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt should have a rating that low.
OBJ is one of the most electrifying receivers in the league and there is no excuse for him to have only two touchdowns on the season. He had injury issues leading up to the start of the year, so it is understandable that it would take some time to get him up to speed, but there is no reason for things to not have been turned around by now.
Need further proof that Kitchens doesn’t know what he’s doing?
Look no further than what happened against the Buffalo Bills just a couple weeks ago. The Browns ran eight plays from within the Bills 2-yard line, and they didn’t come away with a single point.
Kitchens had eight different opportunities to score.
Not once did he call a play that worked.
Not only is Kitchen’s offense struggling, but he seems to have no control over his team. They are simply not a disciplined bunch, and that starts with the head coach. After the game against the Steelers, both Kitchens and Garrett made comments that would seem to imply they learned nothing from that game.
Garrett has since apologized for what happened, and rightfully so, but the fact that he did what he did and said this as his immediate response shows what little grasp Kitchens has on this team.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Kitchens then had the gall to say that helmet-to-helmet contact is a weekly thing in the NFL. Even if that is true, and even if he wasn’t referring to what happened to Rudolph, how can he stand there and not realize that what he is saying could not have worse timing.
The team looks to Kitchens to set an example, yet it is clear from his comments that he didn’t quite grasp the gravity of the situation.
There’s still time left in the season, and the Browns are very much still alive in the playoff hunt, but they have a lot to work on if they hope to clinch a Wild Card spot. The 41-24 win over the Miami Dolphins was a step in the right direction.
Kitchens has to turn this team around, both on and off the field. If he does not, it will end up as just another lost season for the Browns and Kitchens could end up as just another fired Cleveland coach.
Cover photo via: Browns Backers News
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