There was a moment this past summer where folks were feeling really, really good about the Cleveland Browns. Some of them were even holding “over” tickets on the team’s 4.5 win total for the season. The hopes were to maybe steal a conference game or two, beat the Colts without Andrew Luck, and then get a win over the tanking New York Jets. Compared to past seasons, this schedule was set up for a fledgling team attempting to learn how to win. Five wins may have not exactly correlated with such a sizable jump from the one-win season a year ago, but it would be enough to buy the front office and coaching staff time — they could just point to the increased win total, regardless of the actual challenge — and the city of Cleveland would officially be on the up-and-up heading into 2018.
Au contraire, mon frère.
The Browns are a disaster of epic proportions. As has been the case for much of the last decade, it all starts at the top. They still don’t have a quarterback. They don’t have weapons on offense. They don’t have play-makers littering their defense — something that is a requirement when you don’t have the first two. The lowly Jaguars are now 3-2 due only to a world class pass defense and one of the best young running backs in football. The Bills and Jets, two teams who were tanking heading into the season, are now tied with the New England Patriots at 3-2 to lead the division. Worse: The Houston Texans, next week’s opponent, has the quarterback the Browns could have had, and are one week away from being .500.
It’s possible to be a rebuilding team without being dreadful. This isn’t the NBA. Teams rebound year after year, finding the missing pieces wherever they select in whichever draft. The Browns, meanwhile, traded down from No. 2 in a 2016 NFL Draft that saw Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, and Jalen Ramsey go in the top five. This decision could rival that of Ray Farmer’s to go with Justin Gilbert in a draft that saw Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin all go in the first round.
LOSER: DeShone Kizer
Two made field goals in the first half and Kizer likely sees the field in the second half. This said, Kizer did himself no favors in throwing an interception in the end zone and calling an audible to a play that would eventually lead to a fumble at the 5-yard line.
For the first four weeks, Kizer’s postgame press conferences were thoughtful and his responses were long and detailed. Following this past Sunday, each was one or two sentences. He says he will “learn” from getting benched, but it’s clear this wasn’t a mutual decision for the betterment of the team.
LOSER: Hue Jackson
When declaring DeShone Kizer as his Week 1 starter, Hue Jackson stated that the plan was to ride with the ups and downs of a rookie quarterback — he was their man. Roughly four weeks and one reported rift between the front office later and head coach, the Browns came out of halfime with Kizer in a baseball hat and Kevin Hogan in a helmet. When asked about the future, Jackson dropped his cliche “have to watch the tape” nonsense. When asked about his ride-or-die comments regarding Kizer, Jackson said “If I feel like when he is going through trials that I feel like there is something better, then that is my job as a head coach to make a decision and say, ‘Hey look, this is better for us and that is what I did.’ At the time, it just wasn’t working. I don’t think it goes against it.”
Truth is: It does go against it. You don’t get it both ways. The move makes sense from a get-the-win standpoint, but when you don’t get said win, all this did was open things up for more controversy.
Hue Jackson has the appearance of a head coach in over his head. This is painful from a fan standpoint for a multitude of reasons as many of these first five losses run deeper than a talent gap. The only winners here are the talk radio folks who now have an entire week’s worth of content in one decision. Not helping matters: Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz. More on this in a bit.
WINNER: Josh McCown
The last time these two teams squared off in Cleveland, McCown left with a concussion after doing everything he could to put the Browns on the board. Kudos to McCown for pulling this tanking team to three wins in a row. Bonus points for this money quote:
“That’s number one – it’s special to get to 3-2. It took me three years and two teams, but I got my first win here at FirstEnergy Stadium.”
LOSER: Sashi Brown
I’m all for analytics, but I’m for ones that work. His aren’t working.
Carson Wentz couldn't be stopped today. pic.twitter.com/NbQqcacDn7
— ESPN (@espn) October 8, 2017
Don't know how this Chiefs-Texans turns out but I'll say it again – somebody is going to get fired over passing on @deshaunwatson
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) October 9, 2017
Mitchell Schwartz didn't surrender any pressures tonight pic.twitter.com/ITPAhnXEl0
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 9, 2017
WINNER: Duke Johnson Jr.
Another week, another game where Duke Johnson Jr. gets entirely too many touches on a team that should be utilizing his ability to make plays in space. This isn’t to short change the yardage that Isaiah Crowell was able to churn on the day, but the Cleveland Browns have little game-changing talent at the receiver or tight end positions. Why Johnson isn’t getting his number called more often at this stretch of the season is beyond me.
Hue: PUT. THE. BALL. IN. THIS. KID’S. HANDS.
LOSER: Zane Gonzales
What the hell, dude? Do your job.
WINNER: Myles Garrett
PFF graded Garrett out pretty low as he only impacted on a handful of snaps, but he gets the win not only for taking the field, but for recording a sack on his very first play. The kid is going to be fun to watch. We just have to hope the Browns don’t waste him in the same way they have Joe Thomas.
Bonus points for the J.R. Smith-like celebration following his second sack. He gets us.
WINNER: Bryce Treggs
This week’s winner of the practice-squad-to-Browns-starter award goes to Bryce Treggs. Treggs went from needing instructions as to how to get to the team’s locker room on Sunday morning to being on the field for 41 snaps, running routes on 27. He was targeted six times but only two of these passes were deemed catchable. He caught them both.
Nod to Kasen Williams as well for his four receptions (on five targets) for 33 yards. He almost had a chunk more if not for his left elbow coming down out of bounds before his right foot.
WINNER: Jason McCourty
McCourty surrendered five receptions on seven throws into his coverage, but the long completion went for just six yards to Jermaine Kearse. He also intercepted an out cut thrown slightly behind Robbie Anderson on the sideline, and broke up another throw late that was intended for Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Jets QB Josh McCown had a passer rating of just 36.3 when throwing into McCourty’s coverage on the day.
McCourty is currently ranked as the No. 2 cornerback in all of football through five weeks, trailing only Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.
Here’s the INT:
WINNERS: Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Kevin Zeitler
All three men — Thomas, Bitonio and Zeitler — allowed a combined zero pressures in pass blocking through 41 snaps on Sunday. No tackle has blocked for more passing plays through five weeks than Thomas, who has allowed just six pressures (no sacks) in 231 snaps.
LOSER: Gregg Williams
Please defend the tight end. Please. At least try. At the very least, give the appearance of trying.
And Now, The Fans:
I'm a winner because I took the Jets +1.5
— Kyle Cottos (@CTownKyle) October 8, 2017
Winner: Hue Jackson b/c very soon he'll be getting paid a lot of money to do nothing.
— boomhauertjs (@boomhauertjs) October 8, 2017
Winners Myles Garrett, Losers Hue Jackson and Hue Jackson
— nightman (@cozz_tello) October 8, 2017
Winners: the "off the street" kickers about to get a tryout this week
Losers: us ppl w/ kids under 6 who have no hope of raising Browns fans
— Dan P. (@DP_Cannon) October 8, 2017
Winners: GARRETT, Hogan, Duke, McCourty, Kasen Williams, Njoku
Losers: HC + OC Hue, Kizer, D in last 2 mins of 1st half, focus on running
— chris wilson (@chrswlsn) October 8, 2017
Winners: ones that sold their tickets but didn’t pay $30 to park to watch that game
Losers: the exact opposite of what I just said
— Marc McKenna (@MarcMcKenna3) October 8, 2017