The new-look Cleveland Browns were the toast of the town this offseason. Glossy magazine profiles came fast and furious. Trash talk and bold proclamations were the most used in-house verbiage. The downtrodden became the media darling and the possibility of the season sparked an eternal hope long dormant on the shores of Lake Erie.
Hapless and irrelevant is no way to go through life. But neither is over-promising and under-delivering. Baker Mayfield is a ton of fun on the field and off it. Odell Beckham is must-watch between the numbers and on the microphone.
And yet this season, which was supposed to have a killer script, is in real danger of veering off the rails.
The Dawg Pound has been mostly bark and no bite in 2019. A long-anticipated Sunday night game under the bright NBC lights brought subpar offensive execution and a coach out of his depth.
Freddie Kitchens green-lit a draw on 4th-and-9. It didn't work. He wants to be blamed and will have no issue being blamed by an obliging fanbase. Mayfield was shaky at best, completing half of his 36 passes for 195 yards. Beckham was targeted sparingly when it mattered most.
The Browns had a chance to make a bold statement against the Los Angeles Rams and could barely manage a whisper. At 1-2, they're against the ropes early on. Trips to Baltimore, San Francisco, and New England loom, as well as a home tilt against Seattle.
One and six is in play.
Nothing we've seen so far should inspire much confidence. A 43-13 dud in Tennessee was a giant red flag. Beating the hapless New York Jets proved nothing. The offense has mustered less than 17 points/game thus far.
It's not all on Mayfield. But it's clear that the only way the unit has any chance of success right now is for the second-year quarterback to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. If he's asked to hold it, and the offensive line is asked to protect, there's going to be trouble.
Look no further than the dozens of roll-outs to the right last night that yielded nothing.
Even fans of brashness and individuality knew that this team was writing a lot of checks with its mouth that would have to be cashed with some success. Right now, that's just not happening. The margin for error is about to get real slim.
It's put up or wish you'd shut up time.