It’s December in Cleveland, which means intermittent snow flurries (but not on Christmas, of course) and a final month spent examining the unraveling of the Browns.
This season’s Browns didn’t so much unravel as they never did fully come together as one, and now that they can only finish 8-8 at best and need a minor miracle to make the playoffs, the finger pointing has begun.
It comes from an unexpected source, and it seems more like a simple, honest revelation more than an excuse or redirection of blame. But the details are, uh, not good.
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"Yeah, I feel like there were some plays that everybody didn’t leave their 110% out there the whole play through the whole play, through the whole whistle," Browns running back Kareem Hunt said Monday, via Cleveland.com. "And we’ve all got to do that if we want to be successful."
Seems simple enough. In order to win in the NFL, you’ll need all 11 on the field giving their full effort with each play. Definitely not rocket science, but it sounds as if it’s an issue with these Browns.
"I mean, yeah, I guess so but it’s everybody," Hunt said. "You can’t point out one person or nothing like that. It’s everybody, and everybody’s got to do their job."
Hunt came to Cleveland in the offseason after enjoying two highly successful seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, which included deep playoff runs (though he wasn’t around for the second of the two, since he’d been cut by then for his off-field transgressions). He knows what a winning football team looks like, and it sounds like this isn’t it.
"We’ve got all the pieces and it’s just going out there and playing as a team and everybody playing hard each and every play and no taking plays off or nothing like that and just finishing," Hunt explained. "We’ve got to finish and we’ve got to come out strong, and that’s usually our thing. Usually you get off to a hot start, and shoot, we wait for them to – they hit us in the mouth first."
Arizona definitely hit Cleveland in the mouth first Sunday, going 90 yards in 10 plays for an opening score, and continued landing haymakers throughout the game as the Browns struggled to stay on their feet. Ultimately, Kenyan Drake’s fourth rushing touchdown, which followed a missed field goal attempt when trailing by 11, served as the knockout punch.
That Hunt is the one voicing these views is interesting, because he’s only been available for the second half of the season — and that part of the campaign has actually been better in terms of wins and losses than the first eight games. There’s less optimism when looking up the mountain at the Ravens and Steelers after 14 games, though, and Hunt appeared to deem it time to let reporters know what he’s seeing.
To his and backfield mate Nick Chubb’s credit, they aren’t the ones taking plays off. Chubb leads the entire NFL in rushing yards and his 5.2 yards per carry average is among the best in the league. He’s also the best running back in the NFL in terms of Pro Football Focus offensive grades at 89.0. Hunt isn’t far behind, ranking eighth among running backs with a minimum 200 snaps with a grade of 79.8, which is better than marks earned by Ezekiel Elliott and Chris Carson, despite playing half as many games as them.
The talent is there, it seems, but something — perhaps internal chemistry, as illustrated by Sunday’s sideline spat and ensuing fallout — is off. We’ll see if the organization attempts to remedy these issues in 2020.
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