Sunday, October 1, 2017

Is the nadir here or near?

Here’s a familiar lament from Browns fans since roughly 1999. It was uttered almost repeatedly Sunday by most of Browns Nation.

“How much worse can it get,” they undoubtedly either thought or shouted or both after a thoroughly unwatchable 31-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in front of the home folks.

“How low is low?”

 “Is this what the bottom of the barrel looks, feels and smells like?”

“Is this team still the National Football League’s stepchild?”

There’s more, but why pile on? Only mercy can be shown at this point of the season, one that is seriously threatening to make last season’s 1-15 record look outstanding by comparison.

This season’s edition of the Browns is a team marching backward in just about every phase of the game. The offense is extremely offensive. The defense is also very offensive. Oh and the coaching might be the most offensive of all.

The Browns arrived at the ballpark totally unprepared to play a game of football against the Bengals, a division rival for goodness sake. That falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff, most notably the head coach, who now sports a 1-19 record as the boss man.

This is a bad team on both sides of the ball and they showed it against the Bengals, who came in with three straight losses and an offense that had scored just two touchdowns in those games.

They scored three on consecutive drives against a Cleveland defense that suddenly seems prone to large doses of ineptitude over a short period of time. They took 13:42 off the clock and put 21 points on the scoreboard in the second quarter. Last Sunday in Indianapolis, the Colts scored four straight touchdowns in just 10:52.

Adam Jones set up the first Bengals score with a 39-yard punt return to the Cleveland 35 late in the first quarter. Nine plays later, quarterback Andy Dalton beat a double blitz by the corners, lofting a seven-yard scoring strike to A. J. Green over rookie safety Jabrill Peppers on the first play of the second quarter.

And the rout was on.

From that point on, the Browns were never in the game, especially when wide receiver Kenny Britt turned DeShone Kizer’s perfect pass into a Clayton Fejedelem interception at the Cincinnati 8 on the subsequent series.

“This can’t happen,” bellowed Adam Archuleta, the CBS color analyst of the game as the football thudded off Britt’s shoulder pads and bounced into the waiting arms of the defender. “Kenny Britt has to catch this ball.”

Apparently Archuleta has not watched much tape of Britt since the veteran wide receiver joined the Browns. If he had, he would have seen how Britt puts on a great exhibition of how not to play the position and might have swallowed his words before they escaped.

Dalton, who completed 25 of 30 passes, including 16 straight, then marched his offense 88 yards with tight end Tyler Kroft, subbing for injured starter Tyler Eifert, scoring the first of his two touchdowns from four yards out.

And then came the crusher, although at that point it was more than obvious which Ohio team was vastly superior. Running back Giovani Bernard gathered a little flat pass and raced untouched 61 yards to the end zone.

Three drives, 24 plays, 206 yards. Just like that, the only mystery was whether the Browns would score any points. Zane Gonzalez came the closest, but drove a 48-yard field-goal attempt wide left on the second possession of the game and the offense under DeShone Kizer with one exception was going nowhere.

The only drama from Browns fans unfolded in the final quarter when the big question became whether the Browns would avoid their first home shutout since the Bengals administered a 30-0 beating late in the 2015 season.

Coach Hue Jackson had mercifully pulled Kizer, who was 16-of-34 for 118 yards and the one pick, in favor of Kevin Hogan with 6:30 left in regulation. Kizer piloted 10 possessions, generating only 164 yards in 50 plays. He should have been benched when it was 31-0 after three quarters.

Jackson weakly explained why he hesitated in removing Kizer when he did. "I didn’t want to take a chance of leaving him in there and getting him injured," he said. "(Removing him) was nothing about DeShone’s performance.” He's lucky Kizer wasn't hurt in the two series he played in the fourth quarter before Hogan arrived.

Hogan looked good – comparatively speaking – in driving his team 63 yards for the lone score in what seemed like slow motion as the Browns reached the Bengals’ nine-yard line with about four minutes left.

At this point, Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis, perhaps with some coaxing from his defense, went for the shutout and inserted, some might say humiliatingly, several of his starters back into the game to help complete the blanking.

It took seven snaps and a pair of pass interference penalties in the end zone, before Duke Johnson Jr. tunneled into the end zone from the one-foot line to end the mystery.

And no, before you even think about the possibility, Kizer is still this team’s starting quarterback. Jackson will douse waster on the absurd possibility he might give Kizer a break and elevate Hogan to the starting spot. That will not happen. And it shouldn’t happen.

“DeShone Kizer is the quarterback," he said firmly after the game. If the coach is so determined to make his pet project a legitimate and productive NFL quarterback, he cannot be relegated to the bench. He can’t take his lumps from the bench.

Sunday’s awful performance certainly did not make anyone associated with the Cleveland Browns feel good? There will be long faces and a whole bunch of questions in Berea on Monday. This cannot be acceptable.

Once again, the Browns went out Sunday and put on full display a roster that is void of talent to the point it is difficult to make a play on either side of the football when it is needed.

This team proven on a weekly basis thus far that there is a more tortuous – and, it seems, torturous – route to their goal of becoming something more than a laughingstock in the NFL.

Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam III watched silently and – guessing here – embarrassingly as the Bengals piled up a 31-0 lead by the end of the third quarter and then tried to humiliate the Browns in the game’s final moments when they threatened to score.

It is anyone’s guess what they are thinking as the season reaches the quarter pole. It’s safe to say this is not the record they expected to see after four games.


  1. Kizer will never be a "productive quarterback". He has a flat-lined learning curve and his inaccuracy is almost unbelievable. And its the same every week, no improvement. Most experts agree, you cannot coach accuracy. It is what it is. If Jackson insists on staying with Kizer, he might as well start sending out resumes.

  2. You've plenty of company.

    Next time, pls sign your name or your post will go unanswered.