The Cleveland Browns are in yet another tailspin. Their future was already predetermined and there might not be anything they can do about it.
The Cleveland Browns are 5-7, the playoffs are not realistic anymore. The team is looking at another possible coaching change and each week things get worse. From top to bottom, the organization is a disaster.
The future of this team is highly questionable, but this is not a result of this season. Events that took place prior to this set in stone a series of events that has torpedoed hope for success for this year and beyond.
December 31, 2017
In order to understand what is happening now, we have to go back to this date. This was the final game of the 2017 NFL season and when the Cleveland Browns became the second team in NFL history to finish a season 0-16. For some bizarre reason, Hue Jackson kept his job. Huey kept his job and became the first coach to finish a season winless to do so. This was the moment that could have changed the future of the Cleveland Browns forever. Firing Jackson at this moment could have changed their fortunes for the better.
There is a theory that the status of Hue Jackson was not something that new general manger John Dorsey could alter. That ownership made it clear that no matter what, Hue Jackson was to remain coach. If this is indeed true, John Dorsey should have walked away from the table before accepting the job. Dorsey should not have signed on for a job where personnel decisions that should be his are being dictated by others. Hue Jackson did not deserve to continue coaching this team and John Dorsey should not have been forced to keep him. Everyone in the world knew this. Yet it happened.
There was a clear fork in the road, success and failure. Browns chose failure.
After the season finished and the team decided to keep Huey at the helm, they embarked on the offseason. This is a moment when a new general manager would usually be able to choose his coach. Instead, Jackson remained and the forced marriage began.
Cleveland was clearly in the market for a quarterback. The question was who was it going to be? Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen were all options for Cleveland. Cleveland eventually went with Baker Mayfield and the team continued to embark down the wrong road.
Not many expected Hue Jackson to last beyond the 2018 season, much less make it through the year. Jackson was predictably fired and the chain of disaster continued. In an ideal situation, the general manager, head coach and potential franchise quarterback are all on the same timeline. Aligning them in this manner allows for the group to grow together. Cleveland chose not to go down this route and now they are stuck in the same cycle they have been in since 1999. Cycling through coaching staffs and eventually quarterbacks until it all starts over again.
Frequent coaching turnover is a death sentence for a young quarterback
Baker Mayfield had two different head coaches and offensive coordinators in his first year. Now in his second season he appears destined to see that number grow to four after a presumed firing of Freddie Kitchens and his staff. The changing schemes, concepts, verbiage, etc. is not good for the development of a quarterback. If you want to stunt the growth of a potential franchise quarterback this is how to do it. Cleveland has done it before and appears ready to do it again.
Baker Mayfield could have his fourth head coach and offensive coordinator in three seasons. This is not the recipe for success, this is a clear path towards failure. A path that was chosen before arriving in Cleveland. A path that Baker is not able to change for the better.
John Dorsey constructed this team with the current timeline
Well if the Browns keep Freddie Kitchens we will see more of the same. No discipline, leadership, accountability or culture. A clear lack of awareness all around and frustration in and outside of the building. If Freddie goes, John Dorsey will be tasked with finding his replacement. Which brings forth this question. Should he be allowed to?
Part of the reason that the team is experiencing issues is because of the moves he made. Acquiring players with questionable backgrounds (Antonio Callaway) and ignoring positions of need (offensive tackle). A clear reason that the Browns offense has struggled this season (apart from Todd Monken not being a good fit) is that Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard are terrible. Dorsey tried to thread the needle at the tackle position and clearly missed, leading to terrible pass protection on a fairly regular basis.
The Cleveland Browns have one shot at competing with this incarnation of the team. It is next year. This will be the year that new contracts will have to be handed out to their star players. Myles Garrett will be in the final year of his rookie deal. Baker Mayfield will have one more year after 2020 before a decision about his contract status needs to be made. This also applies to Nick Chubb. 2020 is the year that the team needs to make that big push into the playoffs. It is the year that if they do not seriously improve this entire process would be all for naught. The tanking, the Sashi Wars, Hue Jackson parading around as the worst coach ever. Next season is where it will be make or break and it appears to be pointing toward the latter and not the former.
There is a way to extend their contention window
Clean house. Top to bottom. Head coach, general manager, everyone involved. Actually build the team and not with just star players. Get role players. Get players who will buy in to whatever the system is. Acquire players of character. Build something sustainable. Make players want to play at a high level for the benefit of their teammates and not just themselves. Put together a program that will not only be successful on the field, but become the envy of other teams in the league.
John Dorsey came in with such bravado, claiming the team had no real football players. Well, Dorsey’s real football players have been a mixed bag. This isn’t giving credit to Sashi Brown, he had a long list of issues with decisions he made. Both have made mistakes and acquired some players with talent, end of story. The problem is that the timeline was sped up under John Dorsey. Mistakes with personnel were made along the way, putting the team where they are currently.. If the team wants to compete beyond 2020, someone new needs to be in charge.
If the team does not make a change, that’s it. It’s over. The waking of sleeping giant? It never happened. The giant will stay asleep and will be quite comfortable. There are currently no signs of waking up any time soon. Dysfunction is the name of the game in Cleveland. Leaks and cryptic tweets are on their way and will give the general public a glimpse of just how bad things are.
The only way to fix the situation in Cleveland is to find a new front office and coaching staff. Even then, it may already be too late. So much for waking up feeling dangerous.