ANALYSIS: ‘Rebooting’ Browns struggle through injuries in loss to Chiefs


Jake Adams headshot

Jake Adams

The dark clouds and storms in Pittsburgh last Sunday were in fact a omen for the Cleveland Browns coaching staff. General Manager John Dorsey decided to not choose sides but to just fire both the head coach and offensive coordinator for the team.

Hue Jackson was relieved of his head coaching duties with a dismal final record of 3-36-1. Open critic of Jackson Todd Haley was also fired from his offensive coordinator position.

These firings sent two messages: First, the Browns will not tolerate any sort of toxic environment, and second, Baker Mayfield is the central focus of the team. Dorsey feels he has a quarterback who can lead the team for the next decade, and he wants nothing to stunt his development as a player.

With half a season left, the Browns needed to promote two coaches within the staff to fill the vacancies. Gregg Williams was given the title of interim head coach because he has previous head coaching experience. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was promoted to the role of offensive coordinator. Kitchens’ promotion gave him an opportunity to call plays for the first time in his coaching career.

Owner Jimmy Haslam labeled these moves a “reboot” and not a “rebuild.” The game against the Kansas City Chiefs would tell the actual story of which one this season actually will be.

Williams’ aggressive mindset could be felt in the game, as the defense wanted to pressure the young stud QB Patrick Mahomes. The head coach for the Chiefs, Andy Reid, gameplanned well for this aggressive defense. Reid used slip screens and deep routes to counter the blitz and man coverage from the Browns. These big plays, coupled with injuries to the Browns defense, would allow the Chiefs to score 21 points in the first half.

Williams also was aggressive on offense. The interim coach went for a fourth-down conversion, and tried  two two-point conversions after each score (both of which failed). Despite the failures, it was still promising to see Williams put faith in his playmakers to move the ball and attempt to get extra points.

On offense, Kitchens pounded the ball with rookie running back Nick Chubb. He also drew up plays to get the receiving back, Duke Johnson Jr., into space (something fans have been wanting all year). He also gave Mayfield easy routes to throw to by utilizing tight end David Njoku. Kitchens’ first-half play calling was excellent, and the Browns only trailed, 21-15, at halftime.

The extra miles from the overtime games this year finally caught up with the defense today. It felt like a player was down and out every series.

Christian Kirksey, Denzel Ward and EJ Gaines all picked up injuries that took them out of the game. There was even a short scare for Baker Mayfield, who was evaluated for a concussion, but would come back in to throw a touchdown pass.

The Kansas City attack took advantage of the Browns’ injuries; it seemed that nothing could stop them from scoring. Again, the Browns can never seem to work in unison when it comes to the offense and defense.

It was a rough day for the “reboot” Browns, but not much was expected against the championship contenders. While the offense seemed more charged today with less three and outs, the defense struggled the high-powered attack of the Chiefs, eventually leading to a 37-21 Kansas City victory.

On a positive note, there is a foundation with this team that can be built upon. With this season basically in the books for Cleveland, they can use it to groom and grow the young crop of players they have.

Jake Adams is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].