Are the Browns Still a Dirty Team? (Cleveland Browns Red Flag #2020-4)

In 2019, the Browns’ hype-train pulled out of the rail-yard, and rolled straight into a brick wall. Browns fans were shocked to learn that their oh-so-fabulous team was, in reality, a bunch of clowns, committing 18 penalties for 182 yards, and handing Game One to the Tennessee Titans on a silver platter.

Were the refs punishing the Browns? Maybe, but why? Could it be that the league was not enamored of coach Freddie Kitchens’ plan to make the Browns a more “physical” team? Did they take note of the Browns beating up the Colts during their preseason practice session? Did the NFL want to nip that thuggish coaching in the bud as they strive to make the game less dangerous?

Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know. But what I really want to know is what coach Stefanski is doing to undo Kitchens’ bad coaching. I don’t recall him making any statements on the subject, or the Browns press discussing it. So, that’s why it is our 4th red flag.

And it is indeed a pressing matter. While there have been many changes made throughout the organization, the Browns still come up as #4 when you pull up a list of the most-penalized teams in the NFL. So coach Stefanski, how are you addressing this enormous problem?

The o-line and the DBs sometimes have to commit penalties to protect the QB, and prevent touchdowns, respectively. But what about receivers? Surely a receiver’s job is to receive (ha, ha) penalties by running his routes so well that the opposing DB has to grab him. But Odell Beckham Jr. committed 5 penalties, and was a bit of a troublemaker. OBJ was a big supporter of coach Kitchens’ policy. Here he is fighting with Marlon Humphrey during the Browns’ victory over the Baltimore Ravens:

That penalty moved the Browns from the Ravens’ 30 yard line, all the way back to the 48. The Browns were up by a touchdown and trying to widen their lead in the third quarter when OBJ just had to fight Humphrey. True, Humphrey was roughing-up Odell, but it seems to me that Odell should be complaining to the refs and trying to get them to watch Humphrey more-closely and draw a penalty rather than indulge his ego by fighting Humphrey.

Browns fans also seem to be assuming that Myles Garrett will be able to avoid getting suspended again this year. But will he? With all the hoopla over the Mason Rudolph incident, you may have forgotten that Myles was fined $42,000 after the game against the Jets in week 2. Here’s what Myles said afterward:

“It’s been like this for awhile, and I feel like they [QBs] have been getting added protection as the years go on. And they sell the tickets of quarterbacks scoring touchdowns, but it’s our job to get after them and I’m not going to stop that, just gonna play the game like it’s supposed to be played. Nothing post- or pre-snap.”

So, here you have Myles thinking that he has the authority to change NFL policy. Do you think the NFL took notice? I do. I think they were just itching for Myles to screw up so that they could put the hammer down on him. That’s why his punishment later in the year seemed so draconian. Did Freddie Kitchens do anything to try and change Garrett’s attitude after the Jets game? Apparently not.

Was it Kitchens who taught the “gentle poet” how to rip off a helmet and bash people with it? Did they drill that in practice? I don’t know, and I don’t know if Myles is “cured” or not. However, if I were coach Stefanski I would not assume that he was. Freddie Kitchens did a lot of damage to the Browns, and it may require quite a lot of work to undo it all.

Contrary to what Myles said, the job of a defensive-end is no longer to sack the quarterback; the job is to sack the quarterback just so. And that’s not easy. It’s something that requires self-control and finesse. Does Myles have that? Well, he didn’t during the Pittsburgh game, and we haven’t seen him play since then, so who knows?

After the Jets game, I cringed every time Myles rushed the quarterback. I was terrified that he would snap somebody’s spine or cause some other disaster. And indeed, the fight with Mason Rudolph (though tame by NHL or UFC standards) was catastrophic for the Browns’ playoff chances. If the 2020 season were to start today, I would still be cringing because I don’t have any reassurance that this issue is being addressed.

We Browns fans are excited about what appears to be a huge coaching upgrade for 2020. But, we have to keep in mind that Kevin Stefanski is a rookie as head coach, and he has some gigantic egos to deal with. Does he know how to manage such players? I certainly hope so.

On the helmet incident, I believe Myles when he says that Rudolph called him the n-word. But Myles did start the fight, dragging down Rudolph long after he released the ball. However, Rudolph escalated the fight by pulling Myles’ helmet halfway off. I also think that there was further racism with the black player (Myles) being called “barbaric” by the white announcer, and the white player (Rudolph) being given the benefit of the doubt by Troy Aikman who said:

“I couldn’t tell if Mason Rudolph’s left hand was caught in the helmet somehow of Myles Garrett, and that’s why he was trying to go to the headgear the way that he was…”

Absurd. As if it’s impossible for a white player to be a bully and a dirty player. (That comment can be heard at the 5:16 mark of this video.)

Clearly, if Rudolph had succeeded in getting Myles’ helmet off, he would have hit him with it and we would have had a totally different outcome. If you look up “bully” in the dictionary, there is a picture of Mason Rudolph. Does he not look like the prototypical bully? How many smaller kids did he stuff into lockers in high school? I bet it was a lot. He knew about the helmet-move and didn’t even have a dirty coach like Freddie Kitchens to teach it to him.

Did Myles Garrett Give Baker Mayfield PTSD? (Cleveland Browns Red Flag #2020-3)

In his rookie debut in 2018, Baker Mayfield was a fantastic quarterback. In 2019, he sucked. Kind of mysterious, no? Most analysts attribute Baker’s regression to the loss of OG Kevin Zeitler, and a consequently degraded o-line.

But I blame Myles Garrett.

How is that possible? How could a defensive player like Myles effect Baker’s game when he isn’t even on the field at the same time as Baker?

Answer: Myles was on the field at the same time as Baker during practice. And no, Myles did not whack Baker in the head with his helmet. However, many people have remarked that Myles “ruined” practice by being way better than the Browns’ o-line that he was practicing against.

So, the ones are on the field practicing, and on just about every pass play, there’s Myles wrapping-up Baker before he can get the ball off. He doesn’t injure Baker of course, however, subconsciously Baker learns that he is not safe, and that he needs to flee the pocket – even when he is not being pressured.

This is the reddest of red flags because everybody is thinking that the addition of Jedrick Wills Jr. and Jack Conklin to the Browns’ o-line is going to restore Baker to his former glory. But, if I am right, it will not, and Baker will continue to see ghosts, have another terrible year, and maybe lose his starting-QB job to Case Keenum.

Speaking of which… Maybe one of Keenum’s jobs as backup-QB should be to take snaps when Myles is on the practice field. I’m not saying that Baker should be coddled, however his subconscious mind does need to be reconditioned into trusting his revamped o-line, which by all accounts will be far superior to the 2019 edition.

This brings to mind a story about MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre as told by his coach, Firas Zahabi, on the Joe Rogan show. As GSP was training for his fight with Dan Hardy in 2010, he got knocked down during a sparring session. In order to rebuild GSP’s confidence, and unbeknownst to GSP, Zahabi instructed the sparring partner to not throw any punches at GSP in the final round, and he did not; he just took a beating. And it worked; GSP was elated after the round and very pleased with his comeback performance. And he went on to defeat Hardy, even though he was probably concussed going in.

The important part of this story is that even the GOAT, GSP, needed to have his confidence restored.

Of course, Baker might catch on if Myles is never on the field at the same time, and that might ruin the therapy. But if so, another treatment will need to be found. An intellectual recognition that he has a better o-line this year probably won’t be enough. He needs to be conditioned to know in his bones that he is safe enough to stand in the pocket and wait for his receivers to complete their routes.

The top priority of the Browns is fixing Baker Mayfield. However, the little adjustment to Baker’s footwork made by coach Van Pelt isn’t going to get the job done by itself. This a job for a sports psychologist. And Baker could start right now with perhaps some visualization exercises, hypnosis, etc.

If this isn’t done, then the Browns will need to change their offensive scheme to match Baker’s disability. Otherwise, we will be watching a rerun of the 2019 season, which nobody wants.

Odell Beckham Jr. is an Overrated Distraction (Cleveland Browns Red Flag #2020-2)

In early 2019 when people were remarking that the Browns had no first-round draft pick, coach Freddie Kitchens responded: “Yeah, but we have Odell Beckham, Jr.

Wrong again Freddie. OBJ did not help the Browns win more games during the 2019 season. In fact, the Browns slipped from 7-8-1 in 2018 to 6-10 in 2019. Turns out, having 14 million Instagram followers doesn’t make you a great player.

And no, OBJ is not the best wide receiver in the NFL. He’s not even the best receiver on the Browns. That title belongs to Jarvis Landry who had 1,174 yards in 2019; the 10th best in the league. Beckham barely squeaked over one thousand, finishing in 26th place with 1,035 yards. Yes, OBJ was not at 100%, but neither was Landry, and both players had surgery right after the season ended.

What I find truly absurd about OBJ is his off-the-charts level of narcissism. OBJ went over 1,000 yards during the last game of the season against the Bengals (early in the 4th quarter). When he achieved this oh-so-fabulous milestone, he took himself out of the game, sat down on the bench, and put a towel over his head. He was all verklempt, and had to shield his eyes from the beam of pure, white-hot light pouring down upon his glorious personage. But his team was losing, and if he has such a high opinion of himself, why did he stop trying to win the game?

Answer, because OBJ doesn’t give a shit about the Browns.

Odell sat out for a play or two, and then came back in the game, but the drama show was ridiculously unprofessional.

And nothing has changed since then. In early May of 2020, Beckham released a video updating fans on his recovery from surgery, and was roundly criticized for his narcissistic attitude. Nowhere in the video does Beckham say the words “team” or “Browns.” Just the opposite; Beckham declares:

“This is my time. That’s all.”

See for yourself:

Is OBJ telling coach Stefanski and Baker Mayfield: “throw me the ball, or I will demand to be traded?” Because if that’s what he means, I say just trade him now. If Stefanski and Mayfield capitulate to OBJ, then the Browns will have yet another disappointing season.

Beckham’s declaration is an insult to the entire Browns receiving corps – including his best friend Jarvis Landry. And I don’t even think Beckham will make it through the season without yet another injury. In fact, the only way he will make it into the season is to skip practice and the preseason because Beckham is made of tissue paper.

While Beckham is the same size as Jarvis Landry, Beckham gets rag-dolled a lot when being tackled. It’s like watching the Broncos 5’8″ Phillip Lindsay – you brace yourself for him getting smashed by a lineman twice his size. But even Lindsay is more durable than Beckham.

While Beckham and Landry are virtually twins, Beckham’s yards-after-catch (YAC) were a paltry 331 in 2019, #44 in the league. By contrast, Landry’s YAC was #18 in the league at 440. Landry had a few more catches than Odell, but his average YAC is still higher at 5.25 vs Beckham’s 4.40.

And of course, Landry is the Browns’ team leader, while OBJ is the exact opposite of that; whatever you might call it.

In May 2020, while the Browns facility was on coronavirus lockdown, Baker Mayfield hosted some of his receivers and tight-ends in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley, Austin Hooper, and David Njoku were there. Meanwhile, Beckham was frolicking in a fountain. Literally. Frolicking. (Click photo to enlarge.)

In all fairness, Jarvis wasn’t there either, but at least he was mentoring Browns rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones in Deerfield, Florida where both players were training.

And of course, wide receivers are known to be narcissists; but I think OBJ is a narcissist among narcissists. Imagine if he were to show up at training camp with a Nick Chubb style attitude. That would be incredible, but I’m not holding my breath.

If the NFL had a Harlem Globetrotters type of team, Odell would be perfect for it, doing his one-handed circus catches and whatnot. But short of that, I am not a fan, and would like to see him traded ASAP. The Browns could use a linebacker, and I hear that Joe Schobert guy in Jacksonville is pretty good. Or maybe the Browns could trade him back to the Giants straight-up for Jabrill Peppers or Kevin Zeitler. Just kidding; the Giants would never go for either trade. What the Browns need to find is an unsuspecting, linebacker-rich wide-out poor team to dump OBJ on.

Note to Odell: the first rule of football is DON’T RUN BACKWARDS:

That’s the way a narcissist returns a punt: he thinks he can juke the entire coverage team. Remember when Jabrill Peppers returned punts for the Browns? Those were the days…until the Browns sent him to New York for OBJ.

So, that’s our second red flag for the 2020 season. OBJ needs to be reigned in, or traded. He is a walking red-flag.