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Just one game left in dreadful Browns season

Five thoughts on the Browns 31-15 loss to the Ravens

A GAME I DIDN’T SEE: Due to spending the weekend in southwest Ohio, I missed out on watching the game, or at least the whole game.

The Dayton TV stations gave me two choices: The Bengals/Dolphins or the Saints/Titans. Both games were more entertaining than the Browns. But I kept up with the lake shore contest by listening to the Browns radio network, as well as from getting angry texts from friends and family as the game unfolded (my father told me he gave up on the Browns at halftime).

I did get to see the last few minutes on television. Just in time to see a late Ravens touchdown and a Baker Mayfield interception.

It seemed from the outset it would take a minor miracle for the Browns to beat Baltimore a second time, but mostly I was just hoping Cleveland could play a sound, clean game. At least then, even in a loss, there would be some sense of improvement from what we’ve seen.

Instead, it was more of the same.

KITCHENS JOB WATCH: There’s no real argument for Freddie Kitchens to keep his job as coach of the Browns.

Well, there’s one.

He’s a first-year coach, and good, strong organizations don’t fire coaches after one season.

The Browns did it once, to Rob Chudzinski. Usually, even a bad organization gives a coach two seasons.

Since 1999, Cleveland has fired a coach after his second season four times.

The lack of stability has hurt the franchise.

Changing coaches, changing schemes, changing players so often is a big reason why the Browns have gone through this decade without a winning season.

But with Kitchens, there’s another concern.

The coach hasn’t shown much growth through 15 games, at least outwardly. The Browns are still lining up wrong, still unable to master clock management, and still committing penalties at an alarming rate.

There are sideline flareups from players, key players from last year who can’t see the field, and just an overall feeling of disorganization.

Baker Mayfield looks little like the quarterback he was last year, and that’s with the playcaller he wanted getting hired as the head coach.

Will Kitchens improve in the second year as coach?

Possibly.

But he’s looked so overmatched.

Do the Browns want to risk sacrificing next season in the name of continuity?

That’s the question.

THE OWNER: Before last January, before I praised the hiring of Freddie Kitchens and predicted the Browns would win a Super Bowl in the next three years, I wrote this after Hue Jackson was let go as head coach.

“The Browns biggest problem is with someone they cannot fire.”

That’s owner Jimmy Haslam. And for everything I’ve gotten wrong about the Browns in the last 15 months, that one sentence remains correct.

In fairness to Jimmy Haslam, he’s the co-owner, with his wife, Dee. And I don’t want to be too hard on the pair, because I think they did the right thing this year.

They stepped back and let general manager John Dorsey get the coach he wanted.

But here’s where it gets tricky.

We will never know who made the final call on Kitchens. Obviously, the Haslams have final say. But if Kitchens truly was a Dorsey pick, then he failed his bosses.

The problem is the Haslams are already viewed by many as bad owners. Since buying the team in 2012, the Browns have had five management teams, six head coaches, and eight losing seasons.

When a top level coach, who has options, is looking for their next opportunity, ownership matters.

It’s why Bill Belichick is in New England, why John Harbaugh is in Baltimore, why Pete Carroll is in Seattle and why Mike Tomlin is in Pittsburgh.

All of them have been in their spots for around a decade, all have won titles.

All have top-flight, stable ownership.

The Browns are a revolving door, and that falls on the Haslams.

Yes, the Browns can fire Kitchens. But that doesn’t mean that Mike McCarthy or Ron Rivera will jump at the job.

They have been in Super Bowls. They know what it takes.

And the Haslams haven’t shown that.

LAMAR JACKSON: Some people say that Lamar Jackson won’t last as an NFL quarterback, that his run game will get him hurt.

I say, if the Ravens win a Super Bowl, does that matter?

Jackson is the MVP and I think the Ravens are the favorites to win it all. Championships matter.

Jackson is a special player. He’s a smart player who avoids hits and can make the all important throws.

I think his success will encourage teams to copy what he and the Ravens are doing.

But there’s only one Lamar Jackson.

ANNIVERSARY: Monday marked the 30th anniversary of the last time the Browns won a division.

It was the last gasp of that era in Browns football.

Looking back, it’s bittersweet.

I was nine-years old, cheering on my idol, Kevin Mack, as he powered into the end zone for a game-winning touchdowns against the Oilers.

My grandmother, also a huge Browns fan, called, and we celebrated together.

A year earlier, she had told me to “hold your head high” after the Browns had been eliminated from the playoffs by Houston. She thought the referees had stolen the game.

But on this night, everyone was happy. Christmas was coming. Then New Year’s. Then the Browns would host a playoff game.

My grandmother died before that game took place. I often think of her this time of year.

Sports sometimes get blown out of proportion. There will always be more important things than the outcome of a game.

But sports also can build bonds. Every time I scream at a TV — which is often on Sundays — I remember those phone calls with my grandmother.

I imagine the things we’d say after losses aren’t that different than the things I’m writing now.

They’re good memories. Even if we didn’t quite get the results we wanted.

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