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Cleveland Browns May Be NFL's Biggest Disappointment in a Generation

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 23, 2019

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield walks off the field after the Browns were defeated by the Baltimore Ravens 31-15 in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
David Richard/Associated Press

They can't block well. They can't consistently score. They can't stop anyone.

Their coach can't coach. It's easy to see why he isn't respected in the locker room—and make no mistake, he isn't.

Their personnel is overrated, their star defensive player was suspended for bashing a player in the face with his helmet, and the two star receivers refute reports they are begging teams to trade for them...but no one believes their denials.

Many of us thought this Cleveland Browns team was a legitimate threat to make the playoffs. In the end, they were something else: the Browns. They are always the Browns.

Nothing has changed. 

No matter how many stars like Odell Beckham Jr. they get, no matter how many hotshot quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield they draft, they always seem to revert back to their origins of compost, muck and disorder.

The score against Baltimore was—aww hell, who cares what the score was. They were up by six with about two minutes to go in the first half and still ended up getting blown out, leaving them at 6-9 and out of the playoffs. Again.

Two NFC front-office executives told Bleacher Report on Sunday evening that head coach Freddie Kitchens has been so bad, and the Browns so massively disappointing, that they believe it will force the organization to at least inquire about former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

The executives added that it's untenable for the organization to bring Kitchens back and not make massive changes this offseason. 

There was a telling moment on Sunday when Beckham got into a heated discussion with his coach. The wide receiver is as frustrated with Kitchens as everyone else. And he knows the deal. We all do.

NFLonCBS @NFLonCBS

Odell Beckham didn't look very pleased with Freddie Kitchens on the sideline. https://t.co/ypRj5da1Zy

OBJ's outburst came one week after receiver Jarvis Landry got into an argument with Kitchens on the sideline. It's like everyone's taking a number.

Beckham has 71 catches for 954 yards and three touchdowns: fine numbers for a journeyman talent, but Beckham is no journeyman talent. His 13.4 yards per catch and 4.7 catches per game are the lowest of his career during a healthy season. The three touchdowns would tie his lowest career mark from two years ago. And that year, he played four games. 

The Browns are what happens when people both inside and outside of the league overrate talent (guilty as charged) and that talent, which needs molding, is put in the hands of a guy like Kitchens, who appears to be from the Rich Kotite coaching tree.

This is, quite frankly, one of the most disappointing teams we've seen in recent NFL history. The only team that was a bigger flop was the Washington squad from 2000, which imported free agents Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and Jeff George, only to go 8-8 and miss the playoffs.

Making the perception worse is the fact that on Sunday, the Browns were on the field with the Ravens—one of the most exciting and best-coached teams in football. Watching the Ravens and Browns was like seeing a side-by-side concert featuring Lady Gaga and Kid Rock. One is astounding; the other is trash. 

The Ravens can beat you any number of ways: grinding it out, airing it out, slugging it out. Track meet, bare feet. Rain, hail or sleet.

The Browns just beat themselves.

It was Kitchens' coaching fart on Sunday, one Browns fans have seen all too many of, that accelerated their decline.

Late in the first half, Cleveland trailed 7-6 with 1:18 left and the ball at their own 25. The smart thing to do would be to run the ball three times and go into halftime down just one point to the best team in football.

Instead, Kitchens called for three passes—all incomplete—and the Browns punted. Quarterback Lamar Jackson, with no timeouts, went 75 yards in seven plays, ending with a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews.

The game was all but over at that point. There was an entire half to play, and Jackson had yet to erupt, which he did.

Even the players knew it, from Beckham's argument with Kitchens to defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson's facial expression when he was asked about being taken out of the contest.

92.3 The Fan @923TheFan

#Browns DT Sheldon Richardson says he was protecting teammate Sheldrick Redwine in altercation on sideline with Ravens DB Marcus Peters https://t.co/fYvGm5PbdH

Richardson said he was protecting a teammate when he received a penalty for an altercation with Ravens defensive back Marcus Peters. Normally, in those types of cases, coaches back their players. Kitchens instead took Richardson out of the game, which explains why he didn't exactly praise the move.

There are plenty of bad teams in this league. But even clubs like the Bengals and Dolphins fight for 60 minutes, and their coaches know what they're doing.

The Browns, in a lot of ways, are worse. They have players the Dolphins can only dream of having, but they're wasting them on a coach who looks clueless at times and appears to have lost his locker room.

At least there is one bit of good news in a season that ranks among the most disheartening of the last 20 years.

There's only one game left.

    

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.