And so it begins…. two years into the three-year rebuilding process, and a combined record of 1-27 over these two years, reports are flooding the market that the Cleveland Browns have fired Executive VP Sashi Brown. After being featured in the Sports Business Daily “Forty Under 40” column just two years ago, and being touted as the “right move” by foxsports.com writer Mike Garafolo, high expectations for Brown were clearly not met and he’s out.
I usually suffer from the Bye Week Blues at this time of year. Good or Bad – and we all know lately it’s been a whole lot of Bad – The Browns are my team and they are part of my Sunday ritual from August through January. However this week, I’m RELIEVED that there isn’t a Browns game on Sunday. Because they decided to let their off-the-field dysfunction become the hot topic of Trade Deadline conversation. Sigh.
It was not a fun game to watch and certainly not a game any NFL fan would want to have extended into overtime. Neither the Cleveland Browns or the Tennessee Titans were able to score a touchdown; it was a boring battle of the field goals.
This seems to be reminiscent of last week’s Titans game against the Indianapolis Colts. At least Tennesee came alive during the fourth quarter and scored 3 touchdowns for that game. But, there were no great scoring drives to end this week’s game, just another field goal in OT to give the Titans the victory.
Kicker Ryan Succop aka “Mr. Automatic“ had four field goals this game, clinching the win in OT with a 47 yard kick. He did have one missed attempt in the fourth quarter from 53 yards out. Succop did extend his NFL-for-consecutive-made-field-goals within 50 yards, his record is now 55.
The other bright star for the Titans was safety Kevin Byard with three, count ‘em, three interceptions off of two different Browns’ quarterbacks. Byard picked off rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second and third quarters and QB Cody Kessler in the fourth.
Another tough game to watch for Browns fans. While most seemed surprised at the blow-out, if you look at their schedule up until now (Jets, Colts, Bengals), it’s only going to get harder as the season progresses. Visions of an 0-16 record loom large in the minds of even die hard fans. And the fear that getting the first pick in the draft (again) will only bring disappointment as the front office seems to struggle with player selection and analytics is very real.
Week after week fans see players the Browns released making plays, like wide recievers Willie Snead in NO or Travis Benjamin in Los Angeles for the Chargers. They see players they passed on in the draft wining games; quarterbacks Carson Wentz PHI and Deshaun Watson HOU being the most popular benchmarks so far. And they question the ability of the front office – and analytics – to put together a football team. Rightfully so.
Yes, you read that correctly. No, this isn’t an article from 2016… or 2015…. or 2014…. or, well, you get the drift. After making a landmark trade to acquire quarterback Brock Osweiler in the offseason, drafting Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer in the 2nd round, waiving Osweiler, watching Kevin Hogan come into preseason games and move the ball effectively, and sending Cody Kessler off to oblivion, the Cleveland Browns decide to start Kizer.
Fans were happy. Rebuilding was starting. The franchise quarterback was here. And then the season happened.
The Week 5 match-up versus the New York Jets started off on a high note; the Browns won their first coin toss of the season! I know you think this is not really something worth noting, yet as the losers of the toss for the first four weeks, opponents have deferred. This forced a shaky young offense to take the field first, ending in 3-and-outs or blocked punts and eventually the depressing fact that they were the only team in the entire NFL to have never had a lead at any point in a game. Never.
After years of tough competition and league-leading stats, the AFC North seems to have fallen on hard times. Through four weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers are at the top with a predictable 3-1 record. They are currently ranked 5th on the Bleacher Report Power Rankings. Then, there’s the REST of the division. Down at #22 we have the Baltimore Ravens (2-2), at #23 the Cincinnati Bengals (1-3), and, pulling up the rear as usual, my Cleveland Browns (0-4).
Pittsburgh’s only loss so far came in overtime vs the Chicago Bears. They look good. Really good. Going to the Playoffs and maybe the Super Bowl good. (Man it hurts just to type that!). They host a tough and improving Jacksonville Jaguars team this week but their offense, which has put up a division-leading 90 points so far, is up to the challenge.
Week 2 has come and gone and the Cleveland Browns are winless. While I’m trying not to channel the Ghosts of Seasons Past, last year’s 1-15 record isn’t far enough away for comfort.
Bright Spots: Rookie Quarterback DeShone Kizer, a Notre Dame product, won the hearts of fans during the preseason. Each week he made mistakes, but he seemed to be learning quickly and we saw progress as he got rid of the ball faster, started leading his receivers and started to throw the ball away to avoid sacks. All those lessons seemed lost over the past two weeks as he racked up NINE sacks, FOUR interceptions and only ONE touchdown. Yet, for the first time in recent years, fans have the hope that he will improve, that he could be our QB of the Future and are showing patience as he develops.
Defensive Coordinator Gregg “3G” Williams has brought a “Come Get Some” attitude that has long been missing here in Cleveland. While we battle perennial defensive greats Baltimore and Pittsburgh, we continued to get pushed around on the field and never had the talent or attitude to get some back. That is changing this year with the addition of Rookie Jabrill Peppers. His status as an alumni of the University of Michigan aside, fans look forward to what excitement he will bring to the field, whether it’s returning punts or flying around on defense.
And let’s not forget the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft, Myles Garrett. His injury near the end of preseason caused a lot of angst for fans, but we want him back healthy and ready to wreak havoc on opponents. While Head Coach Hue Jackson refuses to name a time frame for his return, I’m hopeful that he’ll get back on the field for the Week 4 match versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Division Games Matter!