After a disappointing end to the season, the Browns mercifully elected to fire head coach Freddie Kitchens. After Kitchens received the position over former interim coach Gregg Williams, he was always going to be under a microscope; it was an incredibly controversial decision that clearly did not work out.
I, Andrew Baillargeon, recently came across a nifty device that has enabled me to travel in the past. The device was given to me by the Football Gods, with the stipulation that I can only use it to witness what would have happened had the Browns retained Williams and made him the head coach this season. Sadly, at the risk of having Cleveland Sports Talk get fined, lose our first-round draft pick, and have our owner Zach Shafron suspended for four weeks, I was forced to immediately return the device when I was done.
Anyway, here’s a timeline of the events I witnessed, with the Browns under Gregg Williams for a full season:
Week 1- a well-disciplined, talent, loaded Browns team takes on the Tennessee Titans in a much-hyped home opener. The Titans proved to be a tougher challenge than initially expected, but a strong 4th quarter, along with a game where the team doesn’t set records for penalty-induced futility, allows the Browns to pull out a tight 27-20 contest and start the season off strong.
Week 2 – The Jets’ backup QB and overall injury-ravaged offense and defense is absolutely steamrolled by a strong, well-organized Browns team that has the game over by halftime on Monday Night Football. Browns roll the Jets over by a score of 38-7.
Week 3 – Because the Browns don’t make bizarre play calls, such as calling an HB Draw on 4th and 7, they ultimately go on to force overtime against a tough Rams team, before eventually suffering their first loss of the season in a tough, well fought, 23-20 game.
Week 4 – Little did anybody know, but Gregg Williams actually kidnapped Freddie Kitchens in the “Kitchens is the HC” timeline, as Williams was baffled to this point at how poorly Kitchens was performing. He takes over for one game, and the ‘surprising blowout win’ in the Kitchens timeline is just business as usual here, with the Browns winning by the same score and stretch of dominance.
Week 5 – The Niners start off strong. While the Browns do score 10 unanswered early in the game to cut the game to a one-possession contest. San Francisco ultimately pulls away with a strong offensive performance. The Niners win, 30-20.
Week 6 – The Browns get out to a fast start and manage to avoid blowing a 20-0 lead, hanging on and withstanding the Seahawks’ powerful offense, winning by a score of 38-28.
Week 8 – The Browns come out strong, aiming to shock the NFL world with a huge upset win in New England. Unfortunately, the ageless wonder Tom Brady leads the Patriots to two 4th quarter touchdowns to pull ahead for good, winning by a score of 27-24.
Week 9 – The Browns run all over Denver and stymie the debuting rookie Brandon Allen, taking Denver down by a score of 28-10.
Week 10 – The Browns handle the mistake-prone albeit talented Bills at home, taking them down, 27-14.
Week 11 – The Browns handle the Steelers similarly to the “Kitchens is the HC” timeline, only they do so without having Myles Garrett and co. get themselves suspended with an end-of-the-game brawl. Because, of course, what well disciplined, organized team would get involved in that?
Week 12 – Goes largely the same way as the “Kitchens is the HC” timeline. After all, even Kitchens didn’t screw up a home game against one of the worst teams in football in Miami.
Week 13 – The Steelers are a tough foe and AFC North divisional rivalry games tend to bring out the best of both teams. They take a resounding victory against the Browns in a well-fought game, 23-20.
Week 14 – The Browns handle the Bengals rather easily. Gregg Williams has actually instilled consistent tackling and discipline into the team. With that, Joe Mixon doesn’t demolish the team’s defense and the Browns win easily, 30-10.
Week 15 – The Browns take on a much-less talented Cardinals team and the team doesn’t mentally fall apart at halftime here. A rather easy 27-17 victory is in hand.
Week 16 – A much stronger, more formidable Baltimore Ravens team suffers another defeat against the Browns here, as Gregg Williams (or his OC) doesn’t lose their brain at the end of the first half this time, preventing the Ravens from snatching momentum easily. The defense keeps Lamar Jackson reasonably in check. It is a much closer game, but the Browns prevail with a strong showing, clinching a playoff berth with a 20-17 victory.
Week 17 – With the Ravens not yet clinching the AFC North, the Browns do show up and take care of business in Cincinnati against a vastly inferior foe, defeating them 30-17. The Ravens do, however, defeat the Steelers and relegate the Browns to the five seed with an excellent 12-4 record.
Wild card – The Browns travel to Houston. A tough road game against a very tough opponent ends up being a bit too much, as the Browns dropped a tough 24-17 game.
Despite this, the Browns earning their first playoff appearance in over a decade and setting a single-season record for wins since returning to the NFL gives the team great momentum into the offseason.
Notably, nobody gets fired, nobody has requested a trade, and the Browns are no longer viewed as a total laughingstock.