I'm going back through some team notes from games last season, and in the following/current year I like to pick a few teams and post all their game recaps in order and make a few, quick new year/season observations -- and it gives us some spring/summer reading material when football news is slow.
The first team I selected to post from 2018 season -- the Kansas City Chiefs (see all on FFM). The second team we're going to walk through -- the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns are wildly interesting...now. It's interesting to go back and walk through the season, because it was so sad to start...because they almost beat PIT-NO right out of the gates, but Hue Hue'd it all up and his rightful punishment was soon to come. Then, just when it looked like they would fall with lovable sociopath Gregg Williams at the interim helm...the Browns became a real team, and almost got themselves into the playoffs -- they would have won 10 games and made the playoffs had the Browns canned Hue after the 2017 season and started Baker from day-one, as I probably pointed out over/under a hundred times in the game recaps all last season. So, let's re-look at the Cleveland Browns' wild 2018 campaign.
Now, enjoy the game where the Browns lost their third game in a row, and fired two coaches right after...
2018 Week 8 Dynasty-Fantasy Analysis: Browns v. Steelers
I pushed this game higher up on the list to recap/study once the news of the Hue AND Haley firing hit. I was prepared for one or the other to go but not both the same day in-season.
Some Browns fan asked me, last week, what the Browns would do if Hue Jackson was fired in-season…who would be promoted. I thought Todd Haley, as a guess, because he had head coaching experience but I also added…”The situation could only be worse if they fired Hue and promoted Gregg Williams to be coach, but I don’t believe EVEN the Browns would be stupid enough to do that.”
*Insert sound of deafening silence*
Gregg Williams is the most insufferable, nasty human being in NFL coaching…why…how…what the…? How did he get promoted? I mean, I literally have no words. It’s the most unbelievable thing I’ve seen in coaching aside from Hue Jackson constantly getting retained.
Gregg Williams is a joke. People only wind up coaching for Cleveland/Hue Jackson when they have nowhere else to go. No one wanted Gregg Williams as a defensive coordinator, yet…somehow, he’s a head coach now?
Remarkable. I don’t even know where to begin with this analysis…
First, this is likely no help to the offense. Gregg Williams is going to use the next few weeks to build up his coaching resume…as a defensive coordinator. He doesn’t care about wins and losses in this scenario. He could win every game and still not get hired as head coach for 2019. He has one hope…make his numbers look good for a 2019 D-C job elsewhere.
In order to help the defense look good, he’s going to play conservative and run clock/run the ball and play field position. Old school head coach with no offensive experience at all…he’ll call to run the ball all day. Running the ball will keep his defensive numbers down…lower yards allowed, etc. He has zero interest in the development of Baker Mayfield. If anything, he’d hope he ruins Mayfield somehow, so he doesn’t have to face him in 2019+ wherever he’s head coaching.
Freddie Kitchens is the new O-C. 10 years in the league. Bruce Arians background. Hired by Hue Jackson, so obviously Kitchen is not too smart or in-demand. He’s been around for years and never been given a main role or listed as an in-demand coaching talent. He has some QB coaching experience, but ‘please’…he can’t help Baker Mayfield. Baker is way ahead of Freddie Kitchens as a QB mind…not even close. Different eras, different worlds.
It’s possible our Baker Mayfield 2018 redraft stock is about to crash and burn…or at least it has peaked. He’s going to be a great ‘buy low’ in dynasty when he wobbles around the next weeks. It’s possible Mayfield sees this for the mess that it is and just does what he wants on offense, but I think Mayfield will just go along with ‘conservative’ -- so he can survive from the beatings he’s taking trying to win games for a franchise that is allergic to such a thing.
Nothing about this move makes sense or helps anything for the Browns. This is such a ‘Browns’ move. I’d be shocked if this turned out NOT to be a catastrophe the next several, miserable weeks. Hosting KC Week 9 ought to be a treat…
We’ll discuss the player impacts for the Browns next segment. As for the game analysis – the Browns were poorly coached and did exactly what we thought – implode. The Steelers took advantage as suspected.
Cleveland might win another game this year. 3-13-1 as the new projection.
The Steelers can really seize control of the AFC North win a Week 9 win at Baltimore. 10-5-1 is our current Steelers projection – AFC North winners.
May 2019 Notes: Well, the Browns would lose their next game and fall to 2-6-1 before ripping off five wins in the following 6 games, jumping up to 7-7-1 with hopes of winning the division Week 17 if everything fell their way. Gregg Williams was not as bad as Hue, my apologies...but, obviously, everyone saw through him -- as they busted him out the door after the season and he had trouble finding work before landing as the Jets D-C. Apologies to Freddie Kitchens, he did the smartest thing he could do -- let Baker run the show. You don't need to be an 'X & O' genius...you just need to find talent and then get out of its way/put a great environment around it. I pray Freddie Kitchens succeeds and changes coaching from fake tough guys with 25 hour works days to good people managers who set up their players to succeed...and they don't think they are the reason they are successful. I know this -- the establishment MUST have Kitchens (and Mayfield) FAIL. It's going to be fun to watch the power struggle...and the media doing the bidding of the establishment all along the way.
Fantasy Player Notes…
*Let me say, before you totally panic on ‘Browns things’…we should see what Week 9 looks like. I’m only speculating, I don’t know what nutty Gregg Williams will do. I assume he and Freddie Kitchens do what every coach in football history does…copy the coaches before them.
If you have a trade deadline this week, then you’ll have to speculate along with me…
May 2019 Notes: I'm glad I put that caveat in...because the Browns would take off in two weeks from here. They started to show positive signs next week vs. KC.
-- As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know how Baker Mayfield (22-36 for 180 yards, 2 TDs/1 INT) prospers from here. Maybe, Gregg Williams just lets Kitchens go as an O-C and Kitchens sees this as his ONE chance to impress.
Never in my history in this field has any thrown-in coach ever done anything radical for any extended period of time with a chance like this…even with a chance to make a career. So, I bet this looks like a normal offense and Gregg Williams drops ‘F-bombs’ to Kitchens to establish the run because that’s what every tough guy coach wants to do. Mayfield stops throwing so much, and his numbers decline unless he makes up for it in garbage time with the games out of hand a la Blake Bortles that one year.
If I had to bet, I say our Mayfield stock drops to him as regular QB2 not a regular QB1 hopeful. I never could have seen Gregg Williams named interim coach coming. It would be the opposite of this if Haley got named…he’d be showing off the offense. Mayfield 2018 owners got screwed here.
May 2019 Notes: Baker was somewhat up and down, but I'd not blame the coaches as much as all the WR injuries/continuity. Mayfield's pass attempts did go down...but his efficiency was rising and the team was 'winning' ,which was new, and something I didn't see coming.
-- If Mayfield/the passing game is hurt…then Nick Chubb (18-65-0, 2-10-0/3) will be somewhat of a beneficiary. When teams realize this is a Jeff Fisher/John Fox/Steve Wilks offense then they will stack the run and Chubb is not a good runner without obvious holes – you think David Johnson looks terrible this year? You think Todd Gurley was bad in 2016? Get ready for Chubb behind this bad O-Line and obvious play calling.
You know how you watched Arizona Weeks 1-7 and wondered how they could keep calling ‘those’ plays over and over that never worked? It’s as likely to happen with Gregg Williams. Wins and losses do no matter to him…his defense looking good does. This is Rex and Buddy Ryan ball all over again.
I’m not interested in a buy low on Chubb because I think this has all the makings of a total mess.
May 2019 Notes: I was way wrong. As Mayfield improved as a QB, even with up and down FF numbers, Chubb showed well. I was pretty much wrong about Chubb from like Week 3 to Week 10-11-12. Somewhere in there I think I woke up.
-- How about Mr. No Targets, David Njoku (0-0-0/0). The guy played 84% of the snaps, had been the #2 guy for Mayfield for weeks…and now gets nothing? Are you serious?
If you thought David Njoku was sweet relief from your Evan Engram or whatever issue…guess not. Not because of this zero-target game, although that’s befuddling – it’s the potential change in the offense. If you run heavy, you need a TE in to block!
Also, let me just toss this grenade…
David Njoku is not a throwback, grinder TE…and he has battled drops. Not a Gregg Williams guy…maybe? Maybe, Seth DeValve (2-28-1/2) is more Gregg Williams’ style? Just saying… DeValve is a talented TE…and was the better fantasy play this week, apparently.
I have no clue…but given the change at O-C it’s now some risk we weren’t prepared to have to deal with. Make sure you have a Plan B. Njoku might be your Plan B that turned into a Plan A…he might be downgraded to B again soon.
May 2019 Notes: Njoku's numbers dropped a bit from this game going forward. It looked like he might be a top five fantasy TE with Mayfield, but he slipped back to fringe TE1/strong TE2 later in the season.
-- Vance McDonald (3-47-0/3) for relief? I love the guy but not sniffing the end zone ever and 2-8-3 targets the last three games. Great. Another random TE1 hopeful not satisfying.
You either have Kelce-Ertz, or you don’t.
May 2019 Notes: And VMD never really popped. He always seemed on the verge, but like Njoku...he never clicked to the next level.
-- The Browns #2 WRs candidates? Well, if the offense is going to go conservative than why bother trying to figure out who will emerge as the #2 for Mayfield?
I wrote the ‘Quick Notes + Top 5s’ before the news hit on Hue and Haley. I would have taken Rashard Higgins off the list…for sure not the #1 ‘deep sleeper’ play to look at.
May 2019 Notes: No WR really broke out when the Browns started winning...it was variations every week. But OBJ in 2019 might be a different story...
-- Jaylen Samuels (4-17-0) FINALLY got some touches in this game…at the very end of a blowout, but…hey!...it’s progress from NOTHING.
No fear for James Conner.
And speaking of Conner, just to be clear…Le’Veon will not comeback until the Tuesday after Week 10. He might be inactive Week 11 and then go on the Commissioner’s Exemption list Weeks 12-13. Back Week 14 if he even sets foot in the locker room. He might be inactive all season.
I do not believe Bell will play one down for the Steelers this year, and if he does it won’t be until Week 13 or 14.
May 2019 Notes: I was wrong a lot about Nick Chubb in 2018, but two things I was WAYYY right about and the only one to have this daily-double: Proclaiming all along that (1) Le'Veon would take it to the limit and bet on Conner in the preseason. Every time the 'insiders' said Le'Veon was coming back every other week or two, I told you they were misinformed...and I was right. And (2) I talked all preseason and in-season that Jaylen Samuels was better than James Conner. In a few weeks from this game, Samuels would prove that.
Snap Counts of Interest:
40 = Jesse James
27 = McDonald
13 = Grimble
54 = Njoku
05 = Seth DeValve
31 = Chubb
23 = Duke Johnson
15 = Dontrell Hillard
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