Cleveland Browns get no love in latest NFL power rankings
By Greg Newland
After an active free agency, the Cleveland Browns are not getting any love from one writer after a very disappointing 2019 season.
Cleveland Browns fans are back in good spirits after Andrew Berry was extremely active in free agency. After a disappointing season in 2019, which featured another head coach and general manager fired, Berry had a tough job ahead of him.
Predecessor John Dorsey brought a ton of talent to Cleveland during his tenure, and the team finally showed signs of draft competency after years of struggles.
After an underachieving year from Baker Mayfield 2019, Dorsey who all fans loved was shown the door. Even for Brown’s fans who have seen it all, I wasn’t sure how quickly the optimism would return in The Land with Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski at the helm.
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Even with key additions this offseason, Dan Parzych of NFL Spin Zone still has the Browns ranked number 21 in his latest power rankings. That’s up only four spots after key additions like Austin Hooper, Jack Conklin and Karl Joseph in free agency. Parzych starts his breakdown with this:
"“Remember all of the hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns last season as a serious Super Bowl contender in the AFC following the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants?Things clearly failed to work out for the best with the Browns in 2019 after the team went on to win just six games, but hopefully, the team can find a way to live up to the hype this time around after some of their key free agency signings.”"
Is he wrong? Not at all but let’s not forget about the coaching carousel in Cleveland last year, which should take a major portion of the blame. As much as everyone loved Dorsey, bottom line, he was a micro-manager and instead of hiring an experienced coach went with Freddie Kitchens. The big personalities along with talent the Browns had in 2019 should have been far more successful.
Kitchens was the quarterback coach to begin 2018, and then after a promotion mid-season to offensive coordinator, found himself as the team’s head coach just one season later. Fans were in “full Dorse” mode, trusting every move he made without question.
Someone had to be held accountable for setting this team up for failure with such an inexperienced coach. Kitchens was underprepared and looked overwhelmed every week.
Data showed the Browns were most successful in the 12 personnel with two tight ends, but only lined up that way seven percent of the time. Injuries were part of the reasoning for this, but David Njoku was hurt in week four, and the Browns still saw success in the formation after with Ricky Seals-Jones and Demetrius Harris.
Baker Mayfield is what I call a “mojo” guy. Once he gets his mojo, lookout as he will light anyone up. On the flip side, if he loses it, he can go off the rails quickly.
With poor play calling, scheme strategy and game management by Kitchens, Mayfield never got his mojo in 2019 which led to a sophomore slump. Mayfield began to force the issue which led to red zone turnovers the devastated the Browns in 2019.
It’s easy to put the blame on players, but coaching matters more than some may think. While these players are professionals, they are also human beings and lost confidence was a huge factor in 2019.
Kevin Stefanski will be the breath of fresh air this franchise needs, along with the full alignment of Andrew Berry and Paul DePodesta. While the “overrated” chants will still fly from last year, I look for Mayfield and the offense to take a huge step forward with new leadership.
The Minnesota Vikings lined up in the 12 personnel twenty-eight percent of the time, second in the league behind the San Francisco 49ers.
So, was Parzych wrong putting the Browns at no. 21 in his power rankings? I certainly think so, but maybe it is deserved after the disastrous 2019 season. But please don’t forget, the Browns HAVE the talent now, and HAD the talent in 2019 to live up to expectations.
Cleveland has simply lacked an underrated part of the game; coaching and leadership. A few free agents won’t change the Cleveland Browns unless the culture is changed. Let’s have faith Stefanski and Berry can achieve this.