Let’s call it the State of the Browns at the Bye.
Browns General Manager John Dorsey stepped front and center before the Cleveland media Wednesday to proclaim his club’s 2-4 record is concerning, but not bothersome to the point of being pessimistic. Quite the opposite.
Call it one gigantic vote of confidence. In some areas, the term “vote of confidence” is often preceded by the word “dreaded.” Why? Because what often follows is not pretty.
Dorsey sounded almost sanguine with his club’s performance this season, as any general manager should be, given the hype with which his club entered the 2019 season.
He was enthusiastically optimistic when discussing his head coach and quarterback, both of whom have struggled, though not in the eyes of their GM, for the better portion of the campaign thus far.
“Nobody in this organization is happy about 2-4.,” he said. “Let me remind everybody here there is still a lot of football (10 games) to be played. . . . The facts are we’re 2-1 in the AFC, 1-0 in the AFC North and 0-3 in the NFC.” Now that’s some fancy spinning.
“We have five home games, we have five divisional games,” he continued. “There’s a lot of football to be played. I know from personal experiences that I’ve been on teams (actually one) that have had worse starts than this and guess what? They played really well at the back end of the season.”
His 2015 Kansas City Chiefs started 1-5 and went unbeaten the rest of the way to nail a wild card in the playoffs.
Odell Beckham Jr., Dorsey’s prized wide receiver, had a different, more blunt slant. “This is a team that could possibly be 6-0 or 5-1, but that’s not our record,” he said. “We are 2-4 and we are 2-4 for a reason.”
Dorsey reiterated his love of Baker Mayfield. “I like where he is,” he said. “I like his competitiveness. I love everything about him. That hasn’t changed one bit. . . . I still think his (thrown) balls are still accurate. . . . I still think he throws a good football . . . . What I like is his teammates like him.
“Mastering the quarterback position is very hard,” Dorsey went on, citing how opposing defensive coordinators are trying to fool him. “But Baker is one of those guys that he’s smart enough; he’s not going to make the same mistake twice.”
Eleven interceptions in six games fly in the face of that assertion. Several of them are not his fault, mishandled on the back end of the delivery. In fairness, at least three of them were back-shoulder throws that were more difficult to catch and thus not handled properly.
Emboldening the GM’s nod to the future was last Sunday’s 32-28 loss at home against Seattle after getting crushed, 31-3, six nights earlier by the San Francisco 49ers.
“I think the team responded really well,” he said. “I like the offensive scheme (head coach/play caller Freddie Kitchens) has developed which was on (display) in the Seattle game by putting (Mayfield) in a good position to move the chains.”
Dorsey also disagreed with the notion by some critics that combining play-calling duties with being the head coach was too much for Kitchens to handle and be effective.
“Freddie was hired for a reason,” he said. “That was to lead men and I think in the trust they have in him. . . . I think he has actually put together some really nice game plans. I love where he is right now in terms of that first-year head-coaching label you all try to stick on him. I think he’s done a nice job.”
Apparently, Dorsey is seeing the offensive woes of this team through a completely different lens than some of us. With few exceptions, there is a lack of continuity to what Kitchens is dialing up.
The fact he insists on throwing the football the closer the offense gets to the opposing team’s goal line has cost the Browns at least four or five touchdowns this season, two of which either cost the team a victory or at least a tie with a chance to win in overtime.
Slapping handcuffs on Nick Chubb, not even arguably one of the best running backs in the National Football League, when the offense is that close to touchdown territory is baffling.
Scant mention of the 57 penalties for 509 yards. The discipline on this club is non-existent. Losing more than 500 yards in six games is inexcusable. All of which leads directly to the desk of the head coach.
“At the end of the day, it is one of those things you have to clean up and this (the bye week) is the proper time to clean these things up,” Dorsey acknowledged. “My only advice is it is that attention to details and the little things and don’t put yourself in position to get those penalties.” Much easier said than done.”
No mention of Mayfield’s 11 interceptions, four of them in the red zone. And no mention of a serious lack of concentration, reflected in the rising number of dropped passes, including three in the Seattle loss by the normally reliable Beckham.
None of that is the coach’s fault? And none of this “well he can’t go out and play for them, too.” That’s nonsense. Someone has to take the blame.
This public relations exercise by Dorsey proved without any question that Kitchens and Mayfield have the full-throated endorsement of their general manager, as he likes to say, going forward.
He has already put the negative aspects of the first six games in his personal rear-view mirror and begun concentrating only on the present and immediate future. What’s done is done. Time to move on.
At the same time, he had to show, at least publicly, total confidence in the team he put together. There are too many more games left, as he correctly noted, that offer a softer path to a more respectable record than they own now.
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The trade that sent offensive lineman Austin Corbett to the Los Angeles Rams Tuesday fetched a fifth-round pick in the 2021 college draft.
”With Austin, I’m going to do whatever is in the best interests of this organization,” said Dorsey who selected Corbett at the top of round two of the 2018 college draft.“I thought (Tuesday) was the appropriate time (to trade him). I wish him the best.”
A tacit way of saying I made a mistake; I screwed up that pick.
A tacit way of saying I made a mistake; I screwed up that pick.
It took one full season and six games of a second to come to the conclusion Corbett, who failed at tackle, guard and center (the trifecta), was a bust. Dorsey finally found a desperate team in the Rams, who are experiencing injury problems along their offensive front.
One other thought on the less-than-mediocre offensive line. Dorsey offered this suggestion regarding struggling left tackle Greg Robinson: “I’d like Greg to be more consistent. Just be more consistent as a football player.”
Consistency has never been one of Robinson’s strengths. And it’s not going to start now. That’s why the Browns are his third team in six seasons. This suggestion by Dorsey falls under the category of wishful thinking.