The Cleveland Browns are losing even when they are winning
The Cleveland Browns walked off the field after 60 minutes of football with an eight-point victory versus the Cincinnati Bengals. For the Browns and their fans alike, the feeling was anything but victorious. How can a win feel so much like a loss?
It’s been a tumultuous December so far for the Cleveland Browns. Entering the last month of the year, the Browns were on a three-game winning streak. The first of its kind in over five seasons. Optimism was running rampant, then…December happened.
To be honest, the bad juju can be traced back to Friday, November 29th when head coach Freddie Kitchens was spotted wearing a ‘Pittsburgh started it’ t-shirt. While at a movie theater a fan asked Kitchens for a picture and the coach obliged the request. Kitchens wasn’t wearing the shirt as a form of protest or for any malicious intent, but the rookie head coach’s lack of situational awareness was alarming.
From the fans’ perspective, the shirt was divisive. Half of the fans loved the sentiment and half of the fans claimed it showed poor judgment and reeked of immaturity. On the national level, the shirt was seen as a microcosm for how the Browns have played so far this season; disappointing and self-sabotaging.
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Then the Pittsburgh game happened. As they have all season, the Browns played down to the level of their opponent and allowed themselves to be beaten by a 4th string quarterback and a motley crew of backups.
Every bit of momentum the Browns carried into Heinz Field was stolen by Pittsburgh that day.
The following week of press conferences and player interviews were as tense and as brutal as they have ever been. A renowned internet troll, who will not be mentioned by name, floated a tweet that Odell Beckham Jr. was requesting a trade and that the organization was most likely going to honor it in the offseason. The local media ran with it like they were an anchor leg in a 4×1 race.
Beckham made himself available to the media on Thursday. The scrum provided way more questions than answers and made the situation murkier and more convoluted than it already was. Certain sentences were cherry-picked from the 15-minute presser and even though it was never stated, the narrative was that OBJ wanted out of Cleveland.
Following the presser, then fans voiced their displeasure with the beat writers and the beat writers were fighting back. It was an ugly scene. Berea had become a battleground.
What was lost in all the in-fighting was the fact that the Browns had a game to play in a few short days. And as it always does, game day arrived. The Browns were playing host to a one-win Cincinnati Bengals team that they were favored to beat by a touchdown. How would the Browns be able to focus on the task at hand with all the extracurricular activities surrounding them?
The answer…not optimally. Cleveland came out once again and played down to the level of their opponent. An all too familiar scenario. Most of the struggles in the first half could be attributed to a few bad calls and horrendous play calling. But the good teams overcome those obstacles when facing inferior competition.
The Browns were able to stop shooting themselves in the foot and play to their strengths in the second half. When all was said and done the Browns secured an eight-point victory. Given the current mood of the team, it might be the most disparaging win in the team’s storied history.
Even after a divisional win, it felt like nothing was gained and there are still more questions than answers. Apparently, winning is not a cure-all.