When looking back on the biggest let-downs of the 2019 NFL season, the Cleveland Browns have to be at the top of the list. A roster stacked with talent on both sides completely crashed and burned in the face of sky-high expectations, and they currently sit at 6-9, on the verge of their 12th consecutive losing season.
Much of the blame has been laid at the feet of rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens, and there have been calls for his firing from fans and pundits alike for weeks now. Michael Lombardi of The Athletic reported on Saturday that there may be even bigger changes in store for the Browns:
This could mean, at the very least, that general manager John Dorsey could be on his way out along with Kitchens, and perhaps the entire coaching staff. After such a disappointing year, it's not surprising that this is at least being considered, but is cleaning house the right move for Cleveland?
Kitchens does need to go. The Browns only have two more years of Baker Mayfield on a rookie contract before he'll be looking for a big-time extension, and their roster is already stacked with high-salary guys like Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. They need to capitalize now, and nothing this year has suggested Kitchens is only a decision or two away from turning this team around.
Dorsey is a tougher decision. His trade for OBJ hasn't resulted in the deadly offense everyone envisioned, but I don't think anyone in the league would hesitate to trade Kevin Zeitler, Jabrill Peppers, and two draft picks for a star of his caliber. Zeitler's absence on the offensive line has been felt in a big way, but good guards are easier to find than excellent receivers. He also landed Landry in one of his first moves as GM, and drafted Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward; Mayfield has been inconsistent, but Chubb and Ward both look like long-term pieces for the franchise. The GM's job is to put together a good team on paper, and Dorsey did that much.
But something went awry, and there isn't one individual who can take all the blame. From the outside, it's easy to put it all on Kitchens, but Mayfield hasn't been a model leader over the course of the year. Fair or not, OBJ has a reputation for being a lot to handle as a personality, and both him and Landry have reportedly told other teams to "come get them", even if they refuted the reports.
There's a chance the Browns just need the right man in charge to juggle all the personalities and better put Mayfield in a position to succeed; the rest will fall into place after that. But things are rarely that simple in the NFL, and especially not for the Cleveland Browns. Cleaning house may give this franchise a much-needed reset, and they aren't out of time yet. But Jimmy Haslem better be careful he doesn't irrevocably set the team back, yet again, by initiating a complete reset of his football operations.