Sometimes it helps to state the obvious. While it might be something that everyone in the know is abundantly aware of, to hear it said outright—and to hear it from someone to whom it applies—helps to punctuate its reality, and maybe even provides a bit of catharsis. And as they say in the help groups, the first step is admitting there’s a problem.
The Cleveland Browns’ problem, as stated by third-year running back Nick Chubb, was overconfidence. “I said it before, I think we thought we were a lot better than we were”, he told Jim Rome earlier this month. “We thought it was going to just happen for us, we didn’t actually put the work in”.
“We got this guy, and this guy, you know we’re straight, so we don’t need to actually work, it’s going to happen for us”, he went on. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work. I think that’s exactly what it was with us. We had all the talent in the world, but didn’t put the work into it”.
Even I give the Browns more credit than that. While they clearly had issues on their coaching staff—Freddie Kitchens proved to be way over his head—one of the supposed driving forces of their success was going to be the passing game, but both Jarvis Jones and Odell Beckham, Jr. played literally the entire season through groin injuries, both of whom had the injuries surgically repaired in the offseason.
That was, of course, one (or two) of many problems Cleveland faced. The seeming regression of Baker Mayfield last year obviously didn’t help matters at all, and in order for them to have success this year, it’s imperative for him to be more reliable.
The front office has worked to aid him in that project by improving his protection, investing big money in free agency and a first-round pick in the draft to give him a new pair of starting tackles. With two solid starters inside, already, one wonders if Chris Hubbard might slide inside to play guard, or at least be given the opportunity to compete there.
Chubb was among the least of the Browns’ problems last season, rushing for nearly 1500 yards on 298 carries, averaging five yards per rush, with eight touchdowns. He is still not a significant contributor in the passing game—they have Kareem Hunt for that—and he did fumble three times after protecting the ball well as a rookie, but the simple fact is that he is s deserving Pro Bowler.
It’s become an annual tradition, but Cleveland does actually have all the ingredients to be a good team, maybe even a team that goes to the postseason. It’s just a matter of having the right kitchen staff able to prepare it properly and tend to it from garden to plate.