When Cleveland was sitting .500 through five games, many thought the moribund Browns were beginning to look different.
After the firing on Monday of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, no thought is required. The Browns (2-5-1) are definitely different as they prepare to host the team with the best record in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs (7-1), on Sunday.
“We’re a lot closer than what a lot of people think, especially this year. We’ve got to find ways to make a few plays to get over the hump,” said Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator who was promoted to interim coach.
“The players, they’re getting closer. I like their response to all the confusion, all the dysfunction.”
Williams, who was suspended in 2012 for his role in the “Bountygate” scandal while coordinating the New Orleans Saints’ defense, was 17-31 as the Buffalo Bills’ head coach from 2001-03.
He is not likely the long-term answer for the Browns, who hope quarterback Baker Mayfield can at least fulfill that role on the field.
“We’ve got to use this as something to come together,” said Mayfield, adding, “It’s my welcome-to-the-business moment.”
Maybe the coaching moves will provide the spark intended to lift a team that has scored six touchdowns in the past four games while Mayfield was sacked 17 times.
From the Chiefs’ perspective, there is little reason to anticipate the Browns will immediately overhaul their approach.
“I’m sure it is going to be similar as far as schemes go at this point in the year,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
Mayfield, Mahomes renew acquaintances
Kansas City happens to present a stiff challenge behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has passed for 26 touchdowns, with seven consecutive 300-yard performances.
His matchup with Mayfield is a renewal of college ties. The quarterbacks were teammates at Texas Tech and later Big 12 rivals after Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma.
In a 66-59 win for the Sooners in 2016, Mayfield went 27 of 36 for 545 yards and seven passing touchdowns. Mahomes countered by recording an FBS-record 819 total yards and accounting for seven TDs himself.
Mayfield said Mahomes should have been the top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
“He does stuff that you can’t even think that would actually be possible,” Mayfield said.
As it was, Mayfield’s teammate with the Browns, defensive end Myles Garrett, went first overall in 2017 out of Texas A&M. Mahomes went 10th overall after Kansas City moved up 17 spots to draft him.
“You want to be the number one pick. You want to be that guy,” Mahomes said. “It’s awesome for (Mayfield) to say that, but I know now that we are both happy with the situations we’re in.”
Two Chiefs who were injured in last week’s win over Denver, wide receiver Tyreek Hill (groin) and linebacker Anthony Hitchens (rib), should return against the Browns. Linebacker Justin Houston (hamstring) and center Mitch Morse (concussion protocol) remain iffy for Sunday.
Browns tight end David Njoku (knee) is expected to be available, while wide receiver Da’Mari Scott (shoulder) and cornerback E.J. Gaines (concussion protocol) continue to heal.
–Field Level Media