Photo Credits: AP
Explosive enough to take a huge lead, inconsistent enough to give it back. Unlucky enough to see the NFL officiating make critical calls against them, undisciplined enough to make critical mistakes. Confusing, exciting, risk-taking, and dominant. All of these descriptions are a good way to describe the roller coaster season the Cleveland Browns are having going into their bye week.
For the first time this season, the Cleveland faithful at FirstEnergy Stadium saw the real Cleveland Browns, a crazy collection of talent that can score at any time, and a team that is so inconsistent that it can look like three different teams in the span of 60 minutes of football.
There are the Browns who are absolutely dominant on both sides of the ball, and who are the best team in the AFC North. There are the Browns who seem destined to find different ways to lose, done in by penalties, turnovers, and the uneasy feeling that every pass tipped by a Browns receiver is going to be picked off by the opposing teams. And then, there are the in-between Browns who nobody really knows what to expect from. Anything can happen on any play. For those who think that six games is enough to figure out this team, it’s not.
The Cleveland Browns sit at 2-4 going into their bye week, but they very well could be 4-2. The Browns were completely and utterly unprepared for their Week 1 and Week 5 matchups against the Tennessee Titans and the San Francisco 49ers. However, in their other two losses against NFC West juggernauts the LA Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, the Browns had opportunities to capitalize but just couldn’t.
Photo Credits: John Kuntz, Cleveland.com
Star running back Nick Chubb said, “If you ask me, the only game we should have lost was that Tennessee game. That was just a bad game altogether. Other than that, we hurt ourselves, and we didn’t come out on fire in San Fran. But we’ve got to find a way to see what works for us and stick with it”.
So who’s to blame for the 2-4 start to the most hyped season the Browns have ever had in their existence? Everyone takes a little bit of the blame, but the majority of it should go to Freddie Kitchens and Baker Mayfield.
Photo Credits: Ken Blazen USA Today Sports
Put simply, the first six games of Freddie Kitchens’ head coaching career have been less than ideal. From jumbled gameplans- especially offensively- to questionable clock managing, the first year head coach inexperience has been blatantly obvious throughout the first six weeks. The Browns have been blown out twice this season, calling into question Cleveland’s pregame preparation. Kitchens has also been apart of some very questionable coaching decisions this season.
The first coming in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams late in the fourth quarter. The Browns had it first and goal from the 5 yard line and three timeouts at their disposal. Instead of running the ball with your best player Nick Chubb at least once, Kitchens decided to call four straight pass plays resulting in four straight incompletions and a loss.
The second came this past Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. The Browns had a 3rd and goal at the one yard line, and Baker Mayfield appeared to have thrown his second touchdown of the day to Jarvis Landry. However, the officials ruled that Landry dropped the ball before he crossed the plane and that it was an incomplete pass. The next play was 4th and goal from the 1 where Baker Mayfield handed it off to Nick Chubb who walked in for the touchdown! But, the touchdown didnt count. Freddie Kitchens had thrown the challenge flag on the Landry play for literally no reason. The call stood, and then Freddie tried to outsmart himself. Kitchens called the exact same play as the walk in TD that didn’t count and Chubb got stuffed behind the line of scrimmage for no gain.
Mid-season moves are so disastrous, but John Dorsey doesn’t have a lot of patience. If Kitchens cannot figure it out quickly, he may be out of Cleveland before season’s end.
Photo Credits: Getty Images
When it came to the preseason hype surrounding the Browns, most of it was based on the idea of Mayfield taking another step forward after his record breaking rookie campaign. To this point in the season, that hasn’t happened.
Instead, Mayfield has regressed a year after throwing an NFL rookie record 27 touchdown passes, and leading the Browns to 7 wins. Through six games, Mayfield has completed only 56% of his passes for 1,496 yards, 5 touchdowns, and a league leading 11 interceptions. While some of Mayfield’s numbers have been the result of an underperforming receiving corps, the reality is that the Browns will not begin to win games until their quarterback plays better. Mayfield has the talent, and shows too much promise for Cleveland fans to write him off this season. However, some of the hope in Mayfield seems to diminish each week that passes.
Photo Credits: Cleveland Browns
So where do the Browns stand going into their bye week? The Cleveland Browns are a team that will drive its fans crazy, and make their fans go crazy rooting for them. Somewhere on the road to a championship is better tackling, less yellow flags, and smarter playcalling. The Browns were never supposed to win the Super Bowl this year. However, they should make the playoffs in a year where anywhere in between 8-8 and 10-6 should win the AFC North. With the way the schedule shakes out, the Browns have two very tough matchups against the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, but the rest of the games are very winnable.
So try to enjoy the journey Cleveland. This season has been weird, maddening frustrating, entertaining, and short thus far. There’s a lot of football left for the Brownies and with the talent they have, the AFC North title is still well within reach.