The Cleveland Browns should be in a celebratory mood.
They should be enjoying themselves after a second straight win. They should be especially thrilled about beating the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. They should be viewing this victory as something to build on, they should be thinking about how this impacts any playoff hopes.
But we’re not talking about that. How could we?
Instead, we have to talk about the awful actions of Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Just seconds away from Cleveland icing its fourth win of the season, Garrett made a heinous mistake which essentially put a sour taste in the entire organization’s mouth.
The Steelers had just turned the ball over on downs. With eight seconds left in regulation, all Cleveland needed to do was take a knee and soak in a much-needed win over a rival which has bullied this franchise endlessly for years on end.
After the play, however, Garrett got tangled up with Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph. Eventually, Garrett removed Rudolph’s helmet and hit him over the head with it.
Myles Garrett doing the unthinkable and unimaginable. pic.twitter.com/Y0UXzrCskn
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 15, 2019
The event was, in no uncertain terms, sickening.
Garrett attempted to hit a defenseless player with a blunt object. Said player already suffered a brutal head injury earlier this season. Garrett was immediately ejected, and the reality is it’s going to be a while before he touches the field again.
Yes, Rudolph tried to rip Garrett’s helmet off first. Yes, after the skirmish, Steelers lineman Maurkice Pouncey took several cheap shots at Garrett. Yes, this rivalry has a tendency to get heated more often than not.
To me, it’s all irrelevant.
I don’t care who started it. I don’t care what happened before it, what happened after it. I don’t care that it occurred against a rival.
None of that matters. Not even a little bit.
To find excuses for Garrett’s actions is an attempt to undermine the fact he could’ve seriously hurt Rudolph. To defend what he did is essentially shrugging off a violent act which he had no reason to commit.
It also ignores the impact of his actions.
For one, Garrett is surely getting suspended for this. As a result, it’s tough to look at what he did and not view it as an incredibly thoughtless and selfish thing to do. He’s removing himself from the picture right as Cleveland is starting to build momentum.
Additionally, Garrett gave a black eye to a team which, after such a brutal start to the year, just needed something to be happy about.
“Never beat Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the same year, and then we have to talk about this … we don’t condone that.”
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 15, 2019
As coach Freddie Kitchens stated, the Browns should be happy right now. They should be giddy about remaining undefeated in the AFC North. They should be reveling in the fact they took down the hated Steelers.
Instead of discussing this, players solemnly had to address the disgusting actions of their teammate. They were immediately peppered inquiries not about momentum or potential playoff implications, but about their reaction to their teammate bludgeoning an opponent with his own helmet.
Baker Mayfield called Myles Garrett ripping off Mason Rudolph’s helmet and smacking the QB in the head w/ it “inexcusable.” Jarvis Landry called it “embarrassing.” Odell Beckham, Jr. used “ugly,” HC Freddie Kitchens “embarrassed.” What does it say when your own team is horrified?
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) November 15, 2019
Fans want to be reveling in this victory, as well. Only they can’t. They instead trudged out of the stadium with the same somber attitude you’d expect to witness after a crushing defeat.
It feels like a loss leaving the stadium. It’s silent.
— Kyle Kelly (@KyleKellyNFL) November 15, 2019
If there’s any bright spot in any of this, it’s the fact the Browns have an extra few days between now and their next game. The hope is the players can use this additional time to further remove themselves from what they just saw.
As for Garrett, there’s nothing else that needs to be said. There’s no excuse for what he did. There’s no writing it off, no using other angles of the replay to explain his motive.
What he did will be inexcusable no matter how you paint it. His own teammates have admitted as much.
The NFL surely will, too. When the league does make its final decision on the fate of Garrett, Cleveland will be left to figure out how one of the biggest wins of the season also featured one of the team’s most crushing blows of the year.