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.