After a win over a divisional rival on primetime television, a team is usually celebrated and talked about within the organization with glowing optimism, with media attention concerned with the upward trend a team may be on. For the Cleveland Browns, this was almost the case, as they had beaten down the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-7, the defense trampling over the Steelers’ Mason Rudolph, and Baker Mayfield continuing the trend of taking care of the football by not throwing a single interception. However, that narrative quickly and forcefully changed with an incident occurring with eight seconds on the clock. Myles Garrett, universally known as the best defensive player on the Browns, swung a five-pound helmet at the head of Rudolph and received an indefinite suspension that is suspected to last for the rest of the 2019 season.
This article is not to infer who was truly at fault for the incident. The NFL has determined who is at fault, and another opinion piece on Garrett’s actions would do little good to further conversation. However, for my part, I saw the action as impulsive on Garrett’s part, which has epitomized what this season has become for the Browns. Acting on impulse rather than carefully considering all outcomes of their actions has plagued the Browns organization all year. From the early determination of the Browns as Super Bowl contenders, to the lashing out at reporters over football questions, from safety Jermaine Whitehead calling for people on Twitter to fight him at the practice facility, to Mayfield very oddly shaving his beard over the course of an away game at Denver and finally to the Garrett incident, it begs the question: How did it come to this?
A lack of team discipline has been apparent for the entire season. The miscommunication between Baker and his receivers leading to misthrows and turnovers, Baker’s regression in general, a porous offensive line and key injuries in the secondary have all contributed to the decline of the Browns. But the outstanding reasons for the decline can be attributed to the failures of Head Coach Freddie Kitchens. Hailed as a “player’s coach,” Kitchens has failed to adjust to the responsibilities of a head coach. The Browns have run baffling plays all year, from a draw play on fourth-and-nine against the Los Angeles Rams, to a fourth-and-11 punt turning into a fourth-and-16 try due to a late idea change by the esteemed head coach, to eight tries on the one-yard line against the Buffalo Bills leading to no touchdown. Along with this poor play- calling is the stated lack of impulse control, as the Browns have the third highest amount of penalties and the most penalty yards on the year. These costly mistakes, the idiocy disguised as creativity and the lack of team discipline fall on the shoulders of the head coach, whose lack of experience and ability to take charge has wasted the potentials this team could have achieved.
A postseason run is not impossible for this Browns team, but it will require nigh perfection from a team now down its best defensive player for the rest of the year. Along with beating the currently surging Baltimore Ravens once again, the Browns will have to go to Pittsburgh and Glendale to beat the Steelers and Cardinals respectively, along with avoiding upsets from the Miami Dolphins and two dates with Cincinnati. But this team should, at this point, accept at least 8-8 as a positive. These games will serve as a last chance for Kitchens. Will he lead this team to a respectable end of the season, or will one too many upsets unravel a team that was just getting started?