You know, there was a point in the past couple weeks where I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Cleveland Browns might not clean house at season’s end. I don’t know why, quite honestly. The team has been a disaster all season long, and has been focusing on draft position since Week 6.
However, something about coach Mike Pettine throwing the book at Johnny Manziel and choosing to start Austin Davis at quarterback this week seemed to indicate he might actually be around next year. It seemed to be some sort of blessing from owner Jimmy Haslam that he was washing his hands of Manziel and letting Pettine make power moves because he’ll be back in 2016.
After today, that faint belief Haslam wasn’t going to completely blow Cleveland’s front office up for the third time since 2012 has been eviscerated. Pettine and GM Ray Farmer, along with the rest of their staff, need to spend the next few days buffing up their respective resumes. On Monday, January 4, it’s tough to believe these guys won’t be unemployed.
How could you think anything else? Not after the Browns were ripped apart on their home field against the Cincinnati Bengals today. By the end of the massacre, Cleveland walked off the field losing 37-3, serenaded by boos from the maybe 13 people who could still stand to be in that stadium.
The Bengals barely broke a sweat, and quite frankly, the same could be said for the Browns. No effort was shown, and the overall body language for Cleveland was that of a team counting down the days ‘til this season is over. Davis, starting solely because the Browns are still mad at Manziel, looked below average at best, with his best pass of the day hitting Bengals safety Reggie Nelson right in the numbers.
And why did Cleveland lose so badly? Well, for that, you can thank Farmer and Pettine.
The Browns offense could never move the ball today, partly because none of the receivers Farmer has acquired in his time as GM are taller than 5’10”. The defense he spent the majority of Cleveland’s salary cap on continues to be whitewashed on a weekly basis, and today was no different. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s wideouts – who are actually tall human beings – had no trouble catching everything thrown their way.
As for Farmer’s marquee draft picks, cornerback Justin Gilbert was injured, Manziel was glued to the bench because he can’t resist partying, nose tackle Danny Shelton was present (apparently), and offensive lineman Cameron Erving was pulled due to poor play.
Of course, building a team involves having someone acquire players, and also having someone coach them. The latter is Pettine’s job, and he gets worse at it by the week.
Cleveland could’ve tried to gain a touchdown near the end of the first half, but Pettine’s astonishingly terrible clock-management struck again, as he let the waning seconds drain away while his team tried to figure out what play to run. At this point, I wouldn’t trust Pettine with a kitchen timer, much less an NFL game clock.
His – and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil’s – schemes continue to be as tough as wet toilet paper. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton only had to throw the ball 19 times and still finished with 220 yards and a 146.8 QB rating. Cincinnati was trying all sorts of trick plays, running over-complicated quarterback sneaks or throwing to offensive lineman. It was the kind of thing you do when you’re not the least bit intimidated by the defense you’re playing.
And so, as of today, any glimpse of hope Pettine or Farmer had of keeping their jobs vanished at halftime, along with the majority of the home crowd.
There are arguments people may make against pressing the reset button once again, and I understand all of them. I get that Haslam doesn’t want to be known as the owner who keeps firing people. I understand consistency is the only way to build a winning franchise.
Despite all of this, the way the Browns have regressed this year is nothing less than pathetic. Players have quit, coaching has gotten worse and Farmer couldn’t find talent if it fell in his lap.
Get pumped, Cleveland fans. After today’s astonishingly terrible Browns loss, two things have officially become crystal clear. Things can officially get worse for this team, and the franchise will no doubt be run by a new staff next season.