This has been the most painful season since 1999 I have ever experienced as a Browns fan. That includes a season of no wins and a season going 4-12 after barely missing the playoffs the year before. It has been excruciating watching this team for a number of reasons.
The main reason for this feeling is due to the high expectations that the team had coming into the season. I had as high of hopes for this season as anyone. I saw the talent accumulated this offseason paired with all the young talent already on the roster and believed that this roster was playoff-worthy. Cleveland showed a lot of promise at the close of last season that seemed to be a momentum pusher for what would be a successful run this season. Instead, we have seen a fluttering debacle of poor play. Somehow the Browns shot down the expectations and hopes in a matter of eight games.
The Browns of 2018 are nowhere to be seen. 2018 got our hopes up with all the great individual performances and signs of success. Most if not all of those performances and signs have disappeared in 2019. Let’s start with the main cog of the operation, Head Coach Freddie Kitchens.
Kitchens was thought to be an innovative offensive mind that would drive the Browns offense into one of the juggernauts of the NFL. He was going to be the coach that fits this group of players perfectly, controlling the expansive talented egos this team has on its roster. However, 2018 Kitchens is looking more like a façade for a coach who was clearly not ready to take the reins as a head coach. We have seen little signs of the innovative offensive mastermind that we grew accustomed to last season. The offense is out-of-sorts with a bunch of players seemingly playing like they are all in a different universe from each other. He has not made anything easy for any of his players, especially the quarterback. As for the leadership side of his job, let’s just say that the buddy system he has implemented as the leader has led to no accountability, no discipline and simply no strong direction. Eight games is a short time period, but it is growing clearer every day that Kitchens may be in over his head as the Browns head coach.
But, this is not a one-man show in Cleveland because the players have to play, too. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is a struggling young quarterback, who has regressed far more than anyone could have expected. As a young quarterback, he was prone to developmental struggles, but the truly painful ways he is struggling are in many areas that used to be the strengths of his game. The offensive line is a mess and quite frankly we sort of knew that coming in, however, we thought the playmakers and coaching could hide it. They cannot. The wide receivers, a unit with much acclaim, have yet to show their playmaking ability and they have done little to help their struggling quarterback. On defense, the whole unit has seen an avalanche of performance levels from Week 1 to now. The defensive line is thinner than anyone would have thought coming into the season. The linebackers and safeties are a mess. And, the cornerbacks have yet to meet their expectations, especially on the top of the depth chart. So, the performance level of the players is another shocking part that has led to this dreadful feeling.
Though, the biggest things that have given me this immense pain that I have never felt before about a Browns season are the self-inflicted wounds and madness that the team has shown so far this season. The penalties are at an all-time high, along with mistakes that kill their chances of winning. The madness of cleat controversies almost every game, or a player running to the locker room to threaten fans on Twitter, or the untold and completely mystifying absences of players from the football field are the things that have just soured this season so much for me. These things are eroding the season and hope it had with it.
I wrote a piece prior to Week 1 about the different feelings I had about the team and this season. In a matter of eight games, EIGHT GAMES, I have lost that glossy feeling and have once returned to this all too familiar feeling. Same old Browns.