“We have to refrain from overreacting” — Head Coach Freddie Kitchens, following the Browns embarrassing 43-13 opening day loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Okay, sure. What did you expect the man to say? We stunk, and I didn’t have my team ready to play? In what was the most ballyhooed game for the Cleveland Browns franchise in the 21st century, the team laid a gigantic egg the size of OBJ’s bright orange Rolls-Royce SUV.
The truth of the matter is that Freddie and the coaching staff did not have the team ready to open the season. Which prompts these questions:
1. Do you think maybe having the regulars playing a few series in the preseason was a good idea? And:
2. What the heck have you guys been working on in practice since camp opened in July?
I am writing this piece with a fair amount of egg on my face, seeing as how I had just gotten done touting the attributes of Freddie Kitchens in my last column. The fact is that last Sunday’s 43-13 loss was a complete disaster and an utter humiliation to the franchise.
Freddie Kitchens and his staff have a lot of fixing to do before his team heads to New Jersey to face the Jets on Monday Night Football. And the biggest thing that needs fixing is getting his players’ heads on straight and focused on their jobs. Six personal foul penalties. An ejection for kicking a guy. A total lack of discipline and a total disgrace.
How bad was it? The margin of victory in favor of the Titans was greater than in any game in 2016 and 2017 when the team suffered through a 1-31 stretch. It was the first 30-point loss since 2015. As I remarked to Biff Kress, “This was worse than when we were bad.”
Just to belabor the “badness” of the whole thing, here is further evidence:
— The Browns amassed a whopping 18 penalties for 182 yards, the most by any NFL team in the past two years, and the most penalties by a Browns team since 1951.
— They coughed up three turnovers.
— They converted only one 3rd down in 10 attempts.
— In their four offensive possessions in the 4th quarter Baker Mayfield had three interceptions.
It was ugly, and if you were one of those who predicted that the Browns were all hype and no substance, then it’s hard to really argue against your point of view, at least after one game.
But it was one game out of 16, only 6.25 percent of the full season. The Browns can get their act together, and I believe they will, for several reasons.
First off, I am still convinced of the talent. Next, I predict that GM John Dorsey will not just sit on his hands and do nothing if the team he has put together is imploding. If, for example, he determines that the offensive line needs bolstered, (which we all feared would be the case), he will bring in new bodies and upgrade that position. And finally, it’s because of Baker Mayfield. The man is a winner and will not put up with any more embarrassments like he was part of on Sunday. He is also a leader and I fully expect that he will be the rallying force that will bring the team together to play a complete and disciplined brand of Browns football.
That all gets put to the test next Monday night.
The preseason hype is off, now replaced by an equal measure of pressure. At the risk of being melodramatic, the Week 2 game coming up against the Jets is practically a “must-win” situation. Another loss could shatter the shaky psyche of the team, and send this season spiraling out of control. So far, my predictions have been about as sound as the Browns pass protection, but I just don’t see them flopping in the Meadowlands. I see a win. If not, I see myself watching Gilligan’s Island on MeTV for the remainder of the Sunday afternoons this fall.
I was going to ditch it, but I actually had people asking for it, so let’s do BROWNS TRIVIA! First off, although this is tardy to the nth degree, I need to give credit where credit is due. Paul Pittsenbarger of Springboro was the winner of the last trivia question of 2018, which I never had the opportunity to acknowledge. He correctly identified long-snapper Ryan Pontbriand as the sixth Browns player to make the Pro Bowl after the 2007 season, (along with Joe Thomas, Josh Cribbs, Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow).
This week’s question is predicated on the comforting reassurance that the Titans game does not represent the most lopsided loss that the Browns have suffered since 1999. In 2000, they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars by a 48-0 score, a game in which the immortal Spergon Wynn started at quarterback. My question is this: What Browns back-up quarterback, who came on in relief in that game, later became a Super Bowl-winning Head Coach? If you think you know, please email your answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner becomes the first inductee into the 2019 Browns Trivia All-Star team and will win a prize from yours truly.