Andrew Harbaugh | February 16th, 2019
As if this season wasn’t enough of a shock to Browns fans, as I type this the Browns have signed embattled free agent running back Kareem Hunt. This is just the cherry on top of the whirlwind season that the team and fans experienced this past year. The Browns again changed coaches, quarterbacks, coordinators and did it all again with a new coaching staff top to bottom to finish the year.
This season had everything, all apart from all those recent headlines. Fans had everything to enjoy this year. They got a look into the team with Hard Knocks in the building, they got free beer after a Thursday night win, and they finally got a quarterback that feels dangerous. The future is bright but before we look to it we must go over all the gritty details this season had.
Hard Knocks Brings Us All to Berea
Hard Knocks has tons of great moments from Rex Ryan making sailors look like toddlers with his mouth, Vince Wilfork in overalls, and even teammates going crazy over Game of Thrones episodes. The Browns season did not disappoint either.
It started off with a heated meeting that has since become famous were then running backs coach Freddie Kitchens questioned Hue Jackson about practice methods. That would be a moment in August we would all be looking back on in January.
We saw the culture change begin after Jarvis Landry yelled at all the receivers in a meeting about missing practice. For anyone who has followed the Browns, and is a fan this was the real “So this is what a team is supposed to be like?” moment.
It was just a taste until kickoff September 9th, that’s when we all saw the potential this team had.
Missed Field Goals, Poor Quarterback Play, and Poor Coaching
Opening week was against the Pittsburgh Steelers and while everyone wanted a win obviously the Browns came within a missed field goal in overtime of getting that. However, in a headline that would be recurring, Zane Gonzalez missed a game winning field goal as time expired.
Next week we saw the same thing happen after a late game tying touchdown to force overtime, Gonzalez missed a field goal for the win, along with an extra point and field goal earlier in the game as well. Gonzalez was cut later that week and the team made the move to Greg Joseph who was a solid pickup for the year.
Jackson all training camp and all season kept telling everyone Tyrod Taylor was the teams starting quarterback. That was the case until at halftime of the Browns Thursday night game against the New York Jets had the Browns down 14 to zip and Taylor had an underwhelming 4/14 with 19 yards paired with an injury. Little did everyone know that the future of the franchise was about to come in.
Baker Mayfield entered the game and led a drive resulting in a field goal heading into halftime and then ultimately led a comeback win in prime-time. The legend, that Cleveland had since been looking for since LeBron James left, had been found.
Baker-Mania and Co. Run Wild
Mayfield took over not just the team but the city of Cleveland. Mayfield led the Browns to a 6-7 record as the starter and was able to give them the best quarterback play that Cleveland had seen arguably since Bernie Kosar. He also helped the development in tight end David Njoku, he brought Landry fully into the offense, and his play meant teams couldn’t stack the box against Nick Chubb who also was a welcomed surprise.
Chubb was just one of the great rookies to play well this season. General Manager John Dorsey was able to draft a franchise quarterback in Mayfield, a franchise runner in Chubb, a lockdown corner in Denzel Ward, and a solid pass rusher in late-round-pick Genard Avery. Dorsey shaped a roster that brought the city hope and was competitive in almost every game the rest of the year.
Coaching Changes in Season and Post Season
The Browns were blown out in the second meeting with the Steelers and that must have been enough for the front office to realize a coaching change was needed. The team parted ways with Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley and promoted Gregg Williams to head coach and Kitchens to offensive coordinator. Both saw a lot of success in there perspective roles which made ownership make a tough decision for head coach in January.
The team ultimately interviews several candidates including Williams and Kitchens and decided to promote Kitchens with the relationship he has built with Mayfield being a major reason. Kitchens was able to build one of the best staffs in the NFL in hiring Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator and Todd Monken as offensive coordinator.
The Browns have several tough decisions to make with free agents with names like E.J Gaines, Rashard Higgins, and Greg Robinson. All three players had major roles in the teams’ success this year and could all realistically be brought back.
The Browns are projected to have over 79 million in cap space and should be looking to spend some of that, especially with Dorsey running the show in Berea.
The team also has ten draft picks this year so they have some capital to trade and move around to get the players they want. They have the 17th overall pick in the draft to start and at that spot, they should come away with a starter quality talent who can help the team win immediately.
If you are a Browns fan then you have lots to look forward too in the coming months with a well-established team finally in place. You have a good staff and a good front office, which is going to be crucial to the success they have this year and beyond.
If you are a Steelers, Ravens or Bengals fan you better look out, these aren’t your dads Cleveland Browns.
Check out our other Team Reviews: Atlanta Falcons | Minnesota Vikings | Washington Redskins | Miami Dolphins | Cincinnati Bengals | San Francisco 49ers | New York Jets | Denver Broncos | Indianapolis Colts | Oakland Raiders | Baltimore Ravens | Green Bay Packers | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Detroit Lions | New York Giants
Questions and comments?
Follow Andrew Harbaugh on Twitter @DHH_Mandrew
<a href=”http://Embed from Getty Images“>Main Credit Image