Only One Game Into The Season, The Browns Are Trying To Regroup

Titans Browns Football

Browns coach Freddie Kitchens talks to a game official during the Browns' 43-13 loss to Tennessee, during which Cleveland was called for a whopping 18 penalties, the most by the Browns in a game since 1951. (AP Photo/David Richard)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

It’s never a good sign when, at the start of a news conference the day after your debut as an NFL head coach, your first words are: “What we have to refrain from doing right now is overreacting. It’s one game in a 16-game schedule.”

But there was Freddie Kitchens, urging everyone to remain calm. Pay no attention to that 43-13, penalty-infested thrashing his Cleveland Browns absorbed at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, before an adoring-turned-horrified sellout crowd at First Energy Stadium on Sunday.

By the fourth quarter, most of that crowd in The Dawg Pound by The Sea was hiking towards the parking lots, wondering what all the hyping was about. The NFL’s sexiest, most talked-about team in the preseason laid perhaps the biggest opening-day egg in franchise history.

And that’s saying something.

In hindsight, perhaps it should have been expected. The loss, that is. Not the magnitude of the ineptitude. Nobody expected that, and rightfully so. For four excruciating quarters, Team Freddie flashed expansion team-like futility. Start with the 18 – count ‘em, 18! – penalties called on the Browns, the most by the franchise in 68 years.

The Browns had nearly twice as many penalty yards (182) as rushing yards. On one play the genial hosts gave the visitors their choice of penalties because the Browns committed two of them on the same play.

On another Tennessee touchdown drive, the Titans were gifted four first downs by Browns penalties. One Browns player was dragged out of the game kicking and screaming – literally. Offensive tackle Greg Robinson got kicked out of the game for kicking a Tennessee player in the head. Name a penalty, and the Browns committed it.

“We’re very disappointed in the lack of discipline and composure we showed overall,” said Kitchens. “We didn’t do a very good job from a coaching perspective and a player perspective.”

More than any other egregious act while enduring a Tennessee trampling, it was the out-of-control penalties that was most alarming, because it suggested that the Browns were not fully invested into the game mentally.

The tip of that iceberg may have been Odell Beckham. Breaking new ground in divatude, Beckham, in his Browns debut, played the game while wearing a $350,000 designer wristwatch.

Vince Lombardi must be spinning in his grave.

“Get over yourself,” is San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s famous admonition to all newly-acquired players. That team-building staple was tragically lacking in the Browns’ first performance of the 2019 season.

Nobody would admit that Browns players got caught up in the hype that had been lavished over the team in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. But 43-13 speaks for itself.

This was a team that was there physically, but not mentally or emotionally. It was a team that played as though just showing up was enough. The fact that very few of the regulars played very much in the preseason games may have had something to do with it. This is a team, after all, that has several new, very important, players, who need to build chemistry and culture as quickly as possible.

The early returns on that front suggests there is lots of work to be done there as well.

“We’ve preached from the very beginning about blocking out the outside noise,” said Kitchens. Instead of blocking it out, the Browns, in their season-opening implosion, only added to it. And the noise is about to get even worse.

If the Browns thought the external bedlam was loud before 43-13, wait until Monday night, when they play the Jets in New York, on national television. The “What’s wrong with the Browns” cacophony will be the window dressing leading up to that kickoff, which could be one of the most important second-games-of-the-season the Browns have played in forever.

Another loss, especially another disorganized, undisciplined mess of a loss, will feed the over-hyped monster even more.

“We need to recognize the problem and rectify the problem,” was Kitchens’ marching orders to his team for the current work week. “Football is a production-based business.”

In their first game, the only thing the Browns produced were question marks about all facets of the operation. But it starts with the players. The players making up what is on paper the most talented Browns roster in this century – granted, that’s not saying much, either – have to do the heavy lifting.

Kitchens, who, just four quarters into his NFL coaching career, already has a raging fire to extinguish, knows that better than anyone.

The coach preaches accountability, and though it was nowhere in sight in the chaotic 18-penalty circus against Tennessee, it had better be on the premises in game two.

Coach Freddie has already sounded that trumpet.

“We need to coach smarter and play smarter,” he said. “We need to be a smart, tough, physical football team.”

  

    

  

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It’s never a good sign when, at the start of a news conference the day after your debut as an NFL head coach, your first words are: “What we have to refrain from doing right now is overreacting. It’s one game in a 16-game schedule.”

But there was Freddie Kitchens, urging everyone to remain calm. Pay no attention to that 43-13, penalty-infested thrashing his Cleveland Browns absorbed at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, before an adoring-turned-horrified sellout crowd at First Energy Stadium on Sunday.

By the fourth quarter, most of that crowd in The Dawg Pound by The Sea was hiking towards the parking lots, wondering what all the hyping was about. The NFL’s sexiest, most talked-about team in the preseason laid perhaps the biggest opening-day egg in franchise history.

And that’s saying something.

In hindsight, perhaps it should have been expected. The loss, that is. Not the magnitude of the ineptitude. Nobody expected that, and rightfully so. For four excruciating quarters, Team Freddie flashed expansion team-like futility. Start with the 18 – count ‘em, 18! – penalties called on the Browns, the most by the franchise in 68 years.

The Browns had nearly twice as many penalty yards (182) as rushing yards. On one play the genial hosts gave the visitors their choice of penalties because the Browns committed two of them on the same play.

On another Tennessee touchdown drive, the Titans were gifted four first downs by Browns penalties. One Browns player was dragged out of the game kicking and screaming – literally. Offensive tackle Greg Robinson got kicked out of the game for kicking a Tennessee player in the head. Name a penalty, and the Browns committed it.

“We’re very disappointed in the lack of discipline and composure we showed overall,” said Kitchens. “We didn’t do a very good job from a coaching perspective and a player perspective.”

More than any other egregious act while enduring a Tennessee trampling, it was the out-of-control penalties that was most alarming, because it suggested that the Browns were not fully invested into the game mentally.

The tip of that iceberg may have been Odell Beckham. Breaking new ground in divatude, Beckham, in his Browns debut, played the game while wearing a $350,000 designer wristwatch.

Vince Lombardi must be spinning in his grave.

“Get over yourself,” is San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s famous admonition to all newly-acquired players. That team-building staple was tragically lacking in the Browns’ first performance of the 2019 season.

Nobody would admit that Browns players got caught up in the hype that had been lavished over the team in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. But 43-13 speaks for itself.

This was a team that was there physically, but not mentally or emotionally. It was a team that played as though just showing up was enough. The fact that very few of the regulars played very much in the preseason games may have had something to do with it. This is a team, after all, that has several new, very important, players, who need to build chemistry and culture as quickly as possible.

The early returns on that front suggests there is lots of work to be done there as well.

“We’ve preached from the very beginning about blocking out the outside noise,” said Kitchens. Instead of blocking it out, the Browns, in their season-opening implosion, only added to it. And the noise is about to get even worse.

If the Browns thought the external bedlam was loud before 43-13, wait until Monday night, when they play the Jets in New York, on national television. The “What’s wrong with the Browns” cacophony will be the window dressing leading up to that kickoff, which could be one of the most important second-games-of-the-season the Browns have played in forever.

Another loss, especially another disorganized, undisciplined mess of a loss, will feed the over-hyped monster even more.

“We need to recognize the problem and rectify the problem,” was Kitchens’ marching orders to his team for the current work week. “Football is a production-based business.”

In their first game, the only thing the Browns produced were question marks about all facets of the operation. But it starts with the players. The players making up what is on paper the most talented Browns roster in this century – granted, that’s not saying much, either – have to do the heavy lifting.

Kitchens, who, just four quarters into his NFL coaching career, already has a raging fire to extinguish, knows that better than anyone.

The coach preaches accountability, and though it was nowhere in sight in the chaotic 18-penalty circus against Tennessee, it had better be on the premises in game two.

Coach Freddie has already sounded that trumpet.

“We need to coach smarter and play smarter,” he said. “We need to be a smart, tough, physical football team.”

  

    

  

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I have written about Cleveland sports for so long I actually remember when the Browns almost went to the Super Bowl (I said almost!). I spent most of the last 30 years a...