Browns general manager John Dorsey has proven to have an eye for competent football talent. That not only includes premium picks in various NFL drafts but middle-of-the-board gems that can contribute immediately.
He has proven to be strong-willed, enough to swing difference-making deals for difference-making players like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Damarious Randall. At least so far, he seems to have found “the guy” at quarterback, a franchise running back and built a roster that should tell a more admirable story than 2019 has indicated so far.
Unfortunately, Dorsey is not absolved from the current mess of a 2-6 record at the halfway point. Outside of the hire of Freddie Kitchens as head coach, a decision that looks to be a disaster at this point, there are structural and cultural flaws with this Browns team regardless. Sure, they are not as momentous as the poor game planning, discipline and preparation, but they contribute to 2-6 nonetheless.
First, Dorsey seems to have gone overboard with “stacking talent” while neglecting to maintain the identity of the team that went 5-3 in the back half of 2018. It’s obvious that this football team operates better with an underdog tone. Players like Jabrill Peppers, Kevin Zeitler and Breshad Perriman may not seem important to the naked eye, but they were undoubtedly a part of their success last season. The expectation was that losing them would be outweighed by the onslaught of production from Beckham, but that has yet to appear or even show signs of appearing. Beckham ranks 31st in receptions (39) and 18th in yards (575) and has one touchdown through eight games. The point here is that Dorsey has a tendency to get caught up in talent without considering how it will mesh. Beckham, being the celebrity he is, chose to skip voluntary OTA’s, which most fans shrugged off. However, he and Baker Mayfield are not on the same page heading into Week 10, while new QB-WR combos have figured it out within a two-week span (Garroppolo-Sanders).
This is not the only evidence of Dorsey’s loose free-wheeling, either. He brought in Kareem Hunt, heavy baggage included. He traded for the highly paid Olivier Vernon (out this week with a knee injury), then signing Sheldon Richardson to big money. All of them are players that would’ve fit better with a veteran head coach to corral them. These issues were prevalent in Kansas City as well and partly led to his firing back in 2017. The aftermath was vague, but reports from around the organization suggested that management decisions were “becoming less collaborative, and more centered on Dorsey’s instincts,” according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated at the time. The consensus was that his management skills weren’t up to par on handling the salary cap, interpersonal relationships and communication. Again, these issues are not priority number one for the Browns, but they must be called to attention.
Perhaps all of Dorsey’s player acquisition could’ve worked out if he had hired the right coach. But the Kitchens’ hire came first and a running backs coach turned head coach was likely not ready to take on the stardom of Odell Beckham Jr. in his first go-around. We knew what was coming with Beckham, but the cleat charades and flashing of watches look worse when you’ve lost four straight. The 180-degree change in dynamic of this Browns team compared to last year’s falls on Dorsey’s shoulders more than anyone. It’s a valuable lesson to consider in the offseason, especially if what we all think will happen does happen.