I was #blessed to be able to attend my first Browns regular-season game this past Sunday, and despite the scoreboard registering a Cleveland victory, it felt like any normal Sunday where the Brownsiest Browns moments come back to bite us all in the ass. For the record, I don’t want to feel this way. I want to be able to enjoy a win because they are so rare for NFL teams, Cleveland ones especially since we recently went 1-31 over the span of two seasons. I want Victory Monday to come around where I don’t feel like firing my coach because of his underutilization of one of the best running backs the franchise has ever had. I would rather not be wasting my time attempting to figure out eventual trade packages for star-studded receivers that leak before games that they have had a season-long injury and that they want other teams to “come and get me”. And I’d really enjoy a post-game press conference where the franchise quarterback isn’t taking shots at the team’s medical staff for mishandling an injury to a teammate.
So as an exercise in Thursday Therapy,1 I want to go down the things that *should* feel like a win but actually feel like a loss to me.
Baker Mayfield sticking up for Odell Beckham Jr in the post-game press conference
It’s super great to have an outspoken quarterback that knows his players, his receivers, and is willing to fight for them in the media. Too often we have had players toeing the company line and having interviews and press conferences that could be read off a script. It’s not as helpful when the situation goes against the franchise, calling out the medical staff for not properly identifying the situation and handling it sooner rather than later. I will say this on behalf of the medical staff: I work in IT as my day job. It’s EXTREMELY hard to figure out a problem without properly knowing what the issue is. If you tell me simply “something is wrong with the computer” without any more specifics…I can’t help you. So while I’m inclined to believe the player when he says there is an issue that has been hampering his play, it’s on him to go to the medical staff and say “there’s something wrong here”. If he’s not being articulate enough, they need to probe the situation and handle it. But it’s also possible that he hasn’t told anyone about it too. And that’s frustrating.
Nick Chubb had his sixth 100-yard rushing game
I am eternally grateful that I get to live in a time where Nick Chubb is the Browns running back There is no better example of the Browns fan dream: quiet player, lunch pail worker, dependable as hell, good as can be. The issue here is that Chubb had his sixth 100-yard rushing game despite only getting the call three times in the first half. When asked about it in the post-game, head coach Freddie Kitchens said they didn’t run the ball as much because they were having issues with turnovers. I can buy that only for so long due to the fact that the turnovers came…by throwing the ball. There is no team worse at defending the run than Cincinnati, yet they called for 18 pass plays (minus the ones that were voided due to penalties) in the first half compared to seven run plays, one of which, the Mayfield touchdown, was a designed pass play that broke down. Hard to see how this was a great gameplan going into any of these must-win games down the stretch.
The defense stepped up in the red zone
Given the missing players on defense, whether by injury or suspension, it was great to see the defense only allow one touchdown on the day. However, bend but don’t break is nice in theory, and when you let the Andy Dalton led Bengals offense, the 31st ranked scoring offense and 25th in yardage, go run up and down the field on you, that is an issue. Over the past two weeks, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend of the zone defense employed by defensive coordinator Steve Wilks being exploited in the weak spots: across the middle and the deep outs. While Dalton is a better quarterback than Ryan Finley, allowing him to throw for 262 yards and Joe Mixon to rush for 146 is hardly a testament to good playcalling. Yes, they did keep them out of the endzone for the most part, only allowing one Mixon rushing TD and three Reggie Bullock field goals on four trips into the red zone, but the fact that they so often got close is still an issue.
In retrospect, the big issue I have with the season was the expectations. In many ways, this season has been more frustrating than the 0-16 one in that we were supposed to be running through teams, with Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Beckham Jr, Chubb, and others setting records for how they perform on offense. Myles Garrett was going to challenge for the sack title while Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams were going go toe-to-toe interception wise. None of those things have happened. Instead, we get victory press conferences that sound eerily similar to the ones we used to hear after defeats, with Mayfield looking like a disheveled stepdad wondering where his life went wrong and questions about OBJ’s future with the franchise. As much as I love football, I kinda just want this all to end.