The Pittsburgh Steelers are licking their wounds right now, but the Cleveland Browns have a much bigger existential dilemma on their hands. With their loss yesterday to the Arizona Cardinals, they have now been eliminated from the postseason. And what’s more, they have secure yet another non-winning season.
They have now dropped to 6-8 on the year with two games left to play, and have gone 12 consecutive seasons without posting a winning record. The Steelers have gone longer than they without ever posting a losing record, 16 years in a row, including all 13 under head coach Mike Tomlin.
Following an offseason in which bettors were legitimately picking the Browns to win the AFC North, for Baker Mayfield to make a legitimate run at the MVP award, and potentially for the team to even make a push in the postseason with a bid for the Super Bowl, they now have a good chance of finishing 2019 with a worse record than last year.
Cleveland was 2-5-1 at midseason in 2018, at which point they fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Gregg Williams was named interim head coach and Freddie Kitchens was promoted to interim offensive coordinator.
They went 5-3 the rest of the way, even taking the Baltimore Ravens down to the wire in the season finale, threatening to finish 8-7-1. Instead, they finished as close as they possibly can to .500 while being under it, 7-8-1.
The Browns’ next game is against the Ravens. They have won 10 games in a row, and Baltimore can lock up homefield advantage throughout the postseason with a win. They will be getting everything the Ravens have to throw at them.
In other words, it’s quite likely they are going to end this season with nine losses before finishing the year against the Cincinnati Bengals. 7-9 would be worse than where they were a year ago, before acquiring Odell Beckham, Jr., Olivier Vernon, and Sheldon Richardson, and adding Greedy Williams in the draft, moves that many apparently thought would push them over the edge.
To be fair, this was largely outward-driven hype. General manager Jon Dorsey tried to tamp it down by making it clear that they still expected this to be a process, and that 2020 would be a more realistic target for the team to really break out.
If they’re going to do that, though, then they need to get a lot better play out of Mayfield. He has 17 touchdown passes on the year to 17 interceptions. He is just barely completing 60 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 78.7. This despite having one of the best running games in the NFL.