Expectations Have Played Major Role in Browns Season
Expectations have been the biggest cause of disappointment for the Cleveland Browns this season. Following an off-season that included trading for Odell Beckham Jr and Olivier Vernon from the New York Giants and signing Sheldon Richardson during free agency, expectations skyrocketed for the organization.
Everything that has seemingly gone wrong so far this season has been related to unrealistic expectations. Fans that have been impatiently waiting for a competitive team and winning record, finally seemed to be given a glimmer hope at the end of 2018.
For an organization forever searching for a franchise quarterback, it saw brash and young Baker Mayfield showcase aptitude and galvanize a growing team to a 7-8-1 record. Most teams would see this as a disappointment but for a fan base that witnessed a 1-31 record over the previous two years it was encouragement.
General manager John Dorsey added a plethora of talent just two years into his tenure. He essentially reshaped a roster that was void of franchise talent for nearly half a decade. It created belief that the Browns should finally be contenders in the AFC North.
These same beliefs and expectations of competing in their own division would mean the team could reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Las Vegas sports bettors had the Browns odds of winning the Super Bowl at 18-1, with an increase from 30-1 prior to the Odell Beckham trade.
The general public began to believe that the team was going to be a Super Bowl contender and the media echoed a similar opinion. Yet, as with every controversial opinion, there were doubters that the organization were actual contenders.
Reasonable critics of the Browns off-season moves understood that the roster looks good on paper but had obvious flaws. These flaws included massive holes on the offensive line, a rookie head coach, and poor organizational management. Each of these glaring issues have continually shown themselves throughout the season.
Freddie Kitchens has undoubtedly failed to live up to the expectations heading into the season. He has struggled with offensive play calling, keeping players disciplined on the field and overall responsibilities as a head coach. These are common realities when dealing with a rookie head coach in combination with a young roster lacking veteran leadership. Unfortunately, higher than ideal expectations have potentially placed Kitchens on the hot seat before the season has even ended.
The notion that firing Kitchens is even being suggested seems rushed and irresponsible. Yes, there are causes for concern about his leadership because of the constant issues with himself or players making unwanted waves in the media. His questionable comments during press conferences and undisciplined play on the field have overshadowed the positives of the season.
For the first time in franchise history the Browns have defeated the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cincinnati Bengals in the same season. Nick Chubb is the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2010. Also, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr are on pace to be the first duo to reach 1,000 receiving yards apiece since Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow in 2007. These important feats have been or can be attained with Kitchens at the helm.
Plenty of coaches have came and went since Jimmy and Dee Haslam purchased the team in 2012, but none of these decisions have changed the team’s fortunes. Patience is something they attempted to practice last year, but Hue Jackson was the wrong candidate to begin with. Abruptly moving on from Kitchens would just be another display of poor organizational management.
The realistic expectations for this season should be honest improvement, competitiveness throughout games and growth by the coaching staff. There have been rough patches especially prior to the bye week, but there is room for optimism. Cleveland has an opportunity to hold a record of .500 or above for only the third time since reentering the NFL in 1999.
Establishing a winning culture doesn’t happen over night nor in one season. It begins with taking steps forward and not making rash decisions over unrealistic expectations. The Browns shouldn’t have been deemed contenders until they showed potential on the football field. There are still things that need to be proven this season, but the foundation is being laid for a massive turnaround.