Browns

Same As It Ever Was: Cleveland Browns Week 12 Winners and Losers

David Njoku Touchdown Cincinnati Bengals
AP Photo/Gary Landers

So, this whole winning thing is kind of fun. Not only does the NFL have to toss all those “Browns haven’t won on the road since…” montages in the trash, they have to re-calibrate things a bit, making Cleveland a bit of a national headline. The main story on MMQB? The Cleveland Browns. Featured on NFL.com’s Week 12 Takeaways? The Cleveland Browns. One of the top NFL stories on famed Boston sports outlet The Ringer? The Cleveland Browns.

Forever, Browns fans felt like the league or national media was basking in the losses, the quarterback changes, and the turnover. Here, the entire time, the league—and those who cover it—were simply waiting for them to no longer be a joke of a franchise. Imagine, while the vocal folks who yell “WE GET IT!” at the TV while names like Quinn and Frye and McCown scroll across a fancy graphic, the NFL was simply asking “What else do you want us to talk about?” Now, they have plenty of material.

The Browns, while far from a finished product, are now longer that team fans can circle as a W when they play the schedule game. Their defense is beyond legit and, in the “Uh-oh; Happy learned how to putt” voice, they also happen to have a quarterback, and he’s damn good.

The Cavaliers won back-to-back  games against superior opponents. The Buckeyes dominated the road favorite Michigan Wolverines. And the Browns finish off the weekend with a 35-20 ass whooping of the Cincinnati Bengals, capping off one heck of a weekend for Cleveland sports fans.

WINNER: Baker Mayfield

I’m going to totally just re-write this tweet here because I’m including a tweet below and I don’t want to clutter up my column and distract from all of the super important words that are published within it, but look: Only twice in the history of the NFL has a quarterback recorded back-to-back games with 20-plus pass attempts while recording a passer rating of at least 140.0 and being sacked zero times. They are: Baker Mayfield (2018, Weeks 10-12) Drew Brees (2018, Weeks 10-11).

He’s the featured post at NFL.com’s NextGen Stats page. He led all of Week 12 passers (heading into Monday) in passer rating. He spread the ball to all areas of the field, connecting with eight different receiving options, including a 5-of-7 mark beyond 20 yards.

WINNER: Gregg Williams

It would have been incredibly tough for Williams to look worse than Hue Jackson, but this Cleveland Browns team could have easily chalked up another season to dysfunction, folded up shop and figured out their respective paths out of town. Instead, they have seemingly rallied around Williams—who’s not far removed from being a Twitter punching bag—to win back-to-back games. They’re not just playing; they’re playing hard. And the defense hasn’t skipped a beat with the coordinator taking over head coaching duties as well.

Laugh all you want about the soundbites and the hillbilly rhetoric. Williams, thus far, is getting it done.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BqoCtivj1Be/

WINNER: Freddie Kitchens

I found this note interesting, from Jason Lloyd, following the game:

Mayfield is more involved in the offense since Freddie Kitchens began calling plays, a number of sources said Sunday. But it’s not just Mayfield. Up and down the offense, Kitchens has involved everyone on the play calling — even the offensive linemen. He’s asking players what they’re comfortable running and what their favorite plays are and then he’s calling them during the games — with the expectation the players better execute them. Guys had some input with Todd Haley, but not this much. So far, it’s working.

Which begs the question: How many more games like this before we consider Kitchens the offensive coordinator going forward?

LOSER: Hue Jackson

If you follow a select few folks on Twitter, this is going to come off as piling on. It isn’t. It’s merely acknowledgement of the apparent: Hue Jackson was an anchor on the Cleveland Browns. He didn’t know how to manage a coaching staff, and it was outwardly apparent to his players. His offensive scheme over his two seasons at the helm were atrocious. The way he immediately jumped back to the Bengals after being fired by the Browns was really all his former young players needed to see.

Just so we’re clear that this Browns-Jackson thing stretches beyond Cleveland fans, here’s more from The Ringer:

It feels unfair to compare Jackson’s day to seeing an ex happy with a new partner because right now, Jackson is in some sort of weird relationship that’s primarily based on making his ex unhappy. Instead, his ex is personally and professionally succeeding in ways they never did before, and everybody can tell it’s primarily because he’s not around anymore. It’s a level of personal failure that requires so much more than jealously scrolling through Instagram.

I hesitate to call the Browns’ win “motivated” by Jackson being on the opposing sideline yesterday, but I will say that it certainly didn’t help Cincinnati’s case. That’s a franchise in need of a long look in the mirror.

WINNER: Nick Chubb

The kid is so fun to watch in the open field. He’s the perfect mix of explosive and elusive. He can turn busted plays into big chunks of yards. He has the second and third level effort that not only moves sticks and gets teammates pumped, but it opens up the offense for Mayfield and company to do their thing in the passing game. A home run of a draft pick, Chubb has been the 1A to Baker’s 1 when it comes to his role in this recent turnaround.

Also: What a freaking catch.

WINNERS: Browns Offensive Line

We’ll let this stat speak for itself:

Special shout-out to Joel Bitonio for the celebration of David Njoku’s cross-body touchdown.

WINNER: Damarious Randall

As a Browns fan, I get nervous when one of my team’s players provides bulletin board material for the other team. It’s instincutal and it’s the product of years and years of embarrassment. That said, kudos to Randall for not only playing up to his words, but for providing the game’s most viral highlight: The interception handoff to Hue Jackson.

Think of all the things that have gone wrong for the Browns since 1999, and how so many of them had to happen simultaneously for an unfortunate outcome—say, a winning field goal attempt turned into a blocked kick that gets returned for a game-winning touchdown?—to occur? Now take into account that 1) Randall had to pick off Andy Dalton 2) near the Bengals’ sideline and 3) not get tackled which allowed him to 4) run out of bounds right where Jackson just so happened to be standing to 5) hand him the ball.

That it took Jackson a few seconds to realize he was forever etched into the L-holding side of a cultural moment was all the better.1

A few thoughts from the national folks:

And now, the fans:

  1. The Browns’ social team missed a golden opportunity here, by the way. []