I didn’t feel great Friday night.
Maybe it’s allergens, or maybe it’s some symptoms from visiting the chiropractor Thursday. He’s super creative but aggressive, and my body might be ridding itself of all sorts of toxins because of his handiwork. Or it might be that he gave me his cold. It could also be that I’ve been running six out of every seven days for four weeks now, and maybe my sleep-deprived body just wants a break.
We watched “Free Solo” (woo-hoo, Disney Plus!) from the couch tonight with all the lights off and a fire on, and it makes my complaints seem like the ramblings of a lazy man.
But I can actually trace the moment I started not to feel great to the end of Thursday night’s game between the Browns and Steelers, when with :08 left on the clock, defensive end Myles Garrett lost his mind and decided to assault Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with his helmet. I’m a sports tweeter, so of course, I was part of the immediate over-reaction.
Except that my reaction, even in retrospect, wasn’t an over-reaction.
But what had been an extraordinarily boring game by all other accounts (21-7, ho hum) became incredibly stressful right at the very end.
I started rooting for the Browns the day they drafted Baker Mayfield.
I don’t root for uniforms. I root for people.
That goes for the Oklahoma Sooners, whose 2019 football edition for me has been hard to support. They haven’t done anything bad, but they’re being led on the field by a brooding, humorless quarterback who’s just difficult to get behind. He doesn’t even seem, to me, like he really wants to be here so much as he’s in a year-long job audition for the NFL.
Alas, the people I root for in this case are my fellow Okies, as much as anybody else.
Speaking of whom: when Charlie Kolar caught the last TD for Iowa State against the Sooners, I let out a, “Charlie!”
I had mentioned him to a colleague earlier in the week as somebody to watch out for. Kristi and I had watched him when he was with Norman North a couple years before, and the first thing I noticed were how good his hands were. His sideline routes were terrific, and I thought that surely he was being recruited by OU.
Nope. In my opinion, somebody at OU dropped the ball. I mean, they *did* bring on Drake Stoops, who was on the same high school football team, so it’s not like Charlie Kolar didn’t have Sooner eyes on him.
I won’t recite the Seinfeld routine on rooting for laundry, but I’ve often commented that if my brothers, my nephew, niece, stepdaughter, you name it, were to play a sport at the University of Texas, I would be wearing burnt orange at least the entire time they were there, at least for that sport.
When I pulled for the Toronto Raptors in last year’s NBA playoffs, aside from our honeymoon visit that I say brought the team luck, I was drawn to the entire organization. Led by Masai Ujiri, the Raptors and their quest to globalize the sport of basketball, combined with the guys they had on their 2018-19 team were easy to love.
So, too, were Baker Mayfield’s Sooners, unless you were a Buckeye, I suppose.
With all due respect to the memory of Arkansas legend Brandon Burlsworth, Baker’s the greatest walk-on to ever play college football. Brandon was by a mile the more humble human, but Baker’s skills and grit win out 1 million to one over virtually anybody to play the college game the past generation, aside from maybe Tim Tebow or Vince Young.
When Mayfield was selected by the Browns with their No. 1 pick, that was it. Color me a Browns man.
For what it’s worth, I’ve also watched most of Kyler’s games and root for the Cardinals, too.
But when Garrett ripped the helmet off of the former OSU quarterback, a Bedlam bad-ass in his own right, paternal instincts kicked in.
“Oh, no, you don’t.”
It’s like if an outsider comes in and messes with the kid down the street. Maybe that kid is a rival of your kid, but he’s still from the same neighborhood. He’s one of yours, in the macro, and that’s what Mason was in this case.
“But he started it,” many have said about Mason.
Not true. Garrett’s sack was way over the top to begin with.
In fact, the whole “but, but, but what about …” to me, is like having to deal with whiny children.
But rehashing Thursday night isn’t why I write.
The reason I write is to try to explain why it’s important that the Cleveland Browns get serious about character and culture. Most sports teams pay lip service to it. Periodically, they get lucky when a cancer leaves, such as when Bryce Harper decided not to re-sign with the Nationals.
I don’t hate Bryce at all. In Philly, he’s a good fit. In Washington, he was ultimately a poor one.
The Dodgers had to get rid of Yasiel Puig. He refused to do what his coaches told him to do, and it played a role in L.A. losing the World Series. Why? He wouldn’t position himself where his coaches instructed, and then he’d throw a fit like a teenager when he misjudged a ball.
The Cleveland Browns need to start making plans to part ways with Garrett.
And they need to cut bait with Freddie Kitchens.
Garrett has shown signs all season long of having zero discipline after plays are over. The hit to the face after the play versus the Titans. Ending Trevor Siemian’s season. Todd Haley said Friday morning that this kind of behavior is either coached or glossed over — not that we can listen much to Haley. The former Cleveland assistant proved to be the biggest of asshats during the 2018 season, politicizing a locker room whose chemistry was already poor.
In fact, watching last year’s “Hard Knocks” and the entire NFL season play out, I was struck by just how much politics goes on between coaches in the NFL. There seems to be a lot of back-stabbing and sabotaging, and it makes me wonder how any organization’s culture ever really gets going.
Every assistant is gunning for the head coaching job, and it’s virtually without fail unless the coach has the full command of the room.
Bill Belichick. Mike Tomlin. John Harbuagh. Pete Carroll come to mind.
When Jimmy Johnson coached the Dallas Cowboys, he was famous for cutting even good players for small indiscretions. Now, to be fair, he also let great players slide for big ones. That era of Dallas Cowboys football eventually got out of control fast.
Freddie Kitchens doesn’t have command of the room, and he doesn’t appear to have either the support or the intestinal fortitude to address problems or problem players — and make no mistake, Myles Garrett is officially a problem for Cleveland. Forgetting the sheer violence of his on-the-field act, Myles single-handedly derailed the Browns’ playoff run.
It’s over. And it was because of Garrett’s incredibly selfish act.
It’s unfair to every other man on that squad. To every person in their organization. And to every Cleveland supporter.
But let’s don’t stop there. This team signed Kareem Hunt, whose character is extraordinarily questionable given that the Browns signed him after video showed him attacking a woman.
Let’s back it up further to when my beloved Sooners allowed Joe Mixon to stay on the team after he decked a woman at a local restaurant. And now he’s the Bengals’ problem. He should have been dismissed immediately.
Barry Switzer was known to have said back in the day that he didn’t think he had to tell his players not to rape, among other things.
And I would argue that as an NFL head football coach, you actually have to communicate everything. All expectations.
Address it or bless it.
And don’t assume.
Myles Garrett cost his team a chance at the playoffs and embarrassed his organization during a nationally televised game. His reputation is permanently stained. Cutting him or trading him would send a proper message to the rest of the team and to every kiddo who idolizes them.
We will not put up with this.
There’s a lot about Odell Beckham Jr’s antics that I dislike, but I would categorize most of it under showmanship. Jarvis Landry, too.
For my taste, Baker Mayfield has talked way too much in his first two years, and a down sophomore campaign is rightfully injecting him with some humility.
It’s the little things that galvanize a proper understanding of what’s expected:
- Dress codes
- Curfews when on the road
- Penalties for being late
This should go for coaches, too.
Players in all sports have long complained that these little things are just about a manager or coach exercising control. Except that it’s the exact opposite. The discipline of details equals big-picture freedom because it minimizes distractions, improves behavior and leads to better chemistry and on-field performance.
And that success begets success.
The first time Myles Garrett got his team a 15-yard penalty for hitting his opponent in the face after the play, my message would have been: Do it again, and we won’t wait for the league to suspend.
Two more strikes and you’re gone.
Freddie has to have the power to do that with full support from John Dorsey and Jimmy and Dee Haslam. I guarantee you that Garrett’s behavior wouldn’t fly at Pilot-Flying J.
The thing is: Cutting your best defensive player loose would be a message to the rest of the team that winning the right way is way more important that winning at any cost. Truth be told, chaotic behavior like what Garrett displayed Thursday night isn’t conducive to winning in any way.
It’s highly counterproductive, and it makes the entire organization extraordinarily unlikable.
Baker got it right after the game by saying Myles’ behavior was “inexcusable.” More players should be saying it.
It’s time for somebody to man up in Cleveland and take control of the Browns organization.
They don’t need a buddy. They need a boss.
They don’t need a buddy. They need a boss.