By HCR Staff | Nov. 15, 2019
Obviously, the big story of the night was the fight at the end of the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. Setting that aside, here are our other observations of last night’s contest.
Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens has too much on his plate. Kitchens was never truly qualified to be an NFL head coach at this point in his career, but he’s in the job now, and what we see is someone who is completely overwhelmed. Kitchens is trying to be a head coach and offensive coordinator at the same time, and it simply isn’t working. Even though he has a tremendous amount of talent available to him on offense, there simply is no coherence to the game plan and execution also is poor. The offense had numerous short fields presented to it last night, and it struggle to produce 21 points. First down play-calling was particularly atrocious. Over and over again, the Browns were in 2nd and long, and that simply is not a formula for success.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is terrific at getting a team ready to play, but as an in-game strategist, he is average at best. Tomlin continues to always provide us with head-scratching decisions, and last night’s game was no exception. Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, Tomlin’s offense faced a 4th and 2 from near midfield. Instead of punting and trying to pin an inconsistent Browns offense, Tomlin chose to go for the first down. The Steelers failed, and gave the Browns excellent field position. Even though the Browns did not capitalize, Tomlin did not give his defense an opportunity to make a play against a struggling Browns offense. Keep in mind, this is a Steelers defense that has been as hot as any in the league over the last month in producing turnovers, and turnovers for scores. We felt this was an opportunity for Tomlin to provide some momentum or spark for his team in this game, but he decided to pass it up.
Even though the Browns produced four interceptions last night, Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks made a number of questionable defensive calls. While the Browns have a lot of talent on defense, much of that talent is very young, and still prone to serious mistakes. It’s up to the defensive coordinator to acknowledge that, and put them into positions where they hopefully can minimize their margin for error. Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks does not appear to believe in this philosophy, and that stance continues to put his young Browns defenders into difficult positions. On at least two third-and-long situations last night, Wilks chose to blitz and expose his young secondary. We felt both calls were unnecessary, especially considering that the Steelers offense was struggling, and the Browns held a rare lead. We fully anticipated a zone look in those situations as such a call was safer and appropriate in our view. But then again, Wilkes actually does not have much experience as a defensive coordinator, and it showed to us last night.
We hope to see the Browns transition in 2020 to a downhill, i-formation team. Here are some observations: The Browns home field will always be windy and often cold. Additionally, the Browns divisional opponents also often play in windy and cold conditions. These kinds of conditions can make passing difficult. The Browns have two elite running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield still is developing. The Browns offensive line pass protection quality is average at best. Given these observations, which we feel are reasonable, the 2020 version of the Browns should be an i-formation, downhill running team. Get a quality full-back, a big battleship tight end, and perfect the ability to run the ball. This should be the course the Browns take in the offseason.