It can never be easy, can it? Not with this team, not with the Cleveland Browns.
While beating the one-win Cincinnati Bengals is hardly cause for a ticker tape parade, it should at least be reason to put fans in a good mood. The Browns will finish no worse than .500 in the AFC North this year, and kept their ever-so-faint playoff hopes on life support. It was no season-saving victory, but it should’ve been enough to ensure we all had a stress-free Sunday.
Alas, that’s not the case. It rarely ever is. Even though the Browns came out on top, all anyone is talking about with this team is another round of unneeded drama.
We can start with the easy stuff, first. Cleveland continues seeking any sort of evidence proving Freddie Kitchens is indeed the right coach for this team, and said hunt is still going after today.
The Bengals came into town boasting the NFL’s worst run defense, allowing a league-high 157.6 yards per game on the ground. With a backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, you’d think Kitchens’ game-plan would be focused solely on handing the ball off until the Bengals proved they could stop it.
Naturally, he instead barely called any hand-offs for the entire first half. Quarterback Baker Mayfield went into halftime as the Browns’ leading rusher, with 13 on two carries. Meanwhile, Chubb – who currently leads the league in rushing yards – only received three hand-offs in the first two quarters.
To his credit, Kitchens did figure it out, as the Browns opened the third quarter with a six-play touchdown drive which featured five hand-offs. Still, Cleveland was only able to beat a 1-11 Bengals team by one score, due mostly to yet another day of head-scratching play-calls from the head coach.
Of course, a mismanaged game-plan is practically a weekly routine with this team. Luckily for Kitchens, there’s more noise needing to be addressed besides his in-game management.
Before kickoff, we learned that wideout Odell Beckham Jr. has been playing the entire season with a sports hernia. This alone wouldn’t serve as too much to fuss about. Players fight through injuries all the time. If anything, the ailment helps explain some of the struggles we’ve seen from Beckham this year.
However, any attempt to just move past this was shattered when Mayfield claimed Beckham’s injury was mishandled during training camp, essentially throwing someone on the team under the bus.
— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) December 8, 2019
Staying on the subject of Beckham, we also received a fun report a few minutes before kickoff claiming that he’s been telling opposing players he wants out of Cleveland all season. When asked about the story, the Browns’ wideout declined to comment.
— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) December 8, 2019
I can’t be the only one who sees the irony in Beckham saying he doesn’t want to talk about the offseason in response to a report claiming that’s all he’s been doing with opposing players, right?
All in all, it was another day where the final score is the last thing on people’s minds when it comes to this team.
The head coach still spends Sunday’s looking in well over his head and continuing to add more reason to question if he should be calling plays.
What should’ve been a footnote story about a player fighting through injury instead became a situation where the team’s quarterback is openly trashing the way his team handled the whole ordeal.
Said injured player is also reportedly telling anyone wearing a different uniform than his that he wants out of Cleveland.
Some may see this as far too much drama for one day. Browns fans see it as par for the course.
As a result, any good vibes which may have come from Cleveland winning four of its past five games are seemingly dashed. Instead of being asked about key plays from the victory, members of the team are forced to address reports of their best offensive player wanting out. Instead of letting this be the only distracting headline, Mayfield created yet another one in taking a shot at the Browns’ training staff.
Ice that cake with more questionable decision-making from the coach Cleveland is reportedly still leaning towards retaining, and you end up having to remind yourself this team even came out on top today.
The #Browns just won a football game and every player interviewed post-game seemed dejected and deflated.
What a sad state of affairs for this team in 2019.
— Cody Suek (@WFNYCody) December 8, 2019
Fans thought this season would be different, that the sideshow vibe of this franchise would finally take a backseat to genuinely entertaining and competitive football.
If today taught us anything, it’s that there apparently isn’t enough talent in the world to mute the circus music surrounding this franchise.