Browns GM Andrew Berry made a surprising move near the end of last week, swinging a trade for veteran LB Za’Darius Smith from the Vikings.
Smith is a more impactful player than Browns DE Myles Garrett, who has made the playoffs once in six years in the league, gotten suspended for swinging a helmet at a backup quarterback, lied to the public about having racist remarks said to him and was taken over QB Patrick Mahomes.
He was also selected 30 spots ahead of DE TJ Watt, who has made three playoff appearances since 2017 and propelled the Steelers to five winning records. They have never finished a season with a losing record with Watt. You don’t hear about him off the field; all of his headlines are about football. That’s a real leader.
One must ask themselves: why does every other top-ranked defensive player compete in the playoffs every year while Garrett fields questions about another off-the-field incident? Watt, LB Micah Parsons, DE Bradley Chubb, LBs Devin Bush and Patrick Queen, DE Nick Bosa all do more than the bare minimum to tip games toward wins, not their individual PFF grades.
These guys jump off the tape time and time again during games. They play with relentlessness and furious spirit. DT Dexter Lawrence, who the Giants took with the Browns’ first-round pick, routinely devours the backfield.
Consequently, all of their respective teams finished with winning records or made the playoffs in 2022.
Fans are beginning to see that Myles Garrett is similar to Baker Mayfield in a lot of ways: the Browns need to add all kinds of expensive pieces around them to make them look better. They aren’t “bad” players, but they are not the types of leaders their draft positions indicate they should be. This is why Garrett has only been to the playoffs once in an asterisk lockdown year. Every other season has been a losing finish.
Often, Browns fans will make excuses for this kind of underwhelming play with claims that Garrett is double-teamed, triple-teamed, quadruple-teamed (borderline impossible), chipped and held by offensive linemen. However, this argument falls apart when realizing that every great pass rusher in the NFL is double-teamed often. Quarterback is the highest-valued position in modern sports; football teams have famously taken extra caution when addressing their offensive lines. Garrett’s only move seems to be a speed rush around the edge and lowering his shoulder. Offensive tackles have started to figure this out and take away his outside speed, forcing him inside and he becomes neutralized.
When he’s prevented from sacking the quarterback, he disappears. You will almost never see Garrett turn and burn, chasing down runners from the backside, batting down passes, unlocking from linemen or blowing up screens for his teammates. This is why he disappears in crucial games like Week 9 in Miami last year: zero sacks, two combined tackles, zero batted passes (as usual) and letting a passing offense steamroll you for 200 yards on the ground with hand-me-down running backs.
The inconsistent effort, off-the-field drama, his teammates demanding to be traded because he gets preferential treatment: none of this screams “leader.” Garrett goes with the tide. He is not a culture changer. This is why when things go bad in Berea, they go REALLY bad. Effective leaders can stop things from running downhill and keep the ship afloat. Garrett’s defensive coordinators get fired and new chatter about “revamping” the defense is heard throughout the following offseason.
Again, this simply does not happen with other top defensive players throughout the league. They come in and have an unmistakable impact on the culture.
Make all the excuses you want about double and triple teams and missed holding calls. Every great player in this league is held and triple-teamed. Yet they still manage to push their team into the win column.
More importantly, they manage to step up and make the plays necessary to help their team WIN GAMES, even if they’re struggling to fill their individual stat sheet. Somehow, the world of Pro Football Focus has blinded Browns fans from what the end-all, be-all statistic in this game is: wins.
Where is the accountability? Where is the motor, the relentlessness, or the desire? Yet again, these leadership qualities don’t show up in the stat sheet but have a big impact on the game and the team itself. You won’t find that in a PFF breakdown. People who understand what team sports are all about and don’t think it’s a video game can see this clearly.
Others are too busy writing lists of excuses for why Garrett shares no blame for a Browns defense that was again one of the worst in the entire NFL and had another coordinator fired.
Now, with no-nonsense Jim Schwartz at the helm and the addition of Smith, along with the rising Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, the Browns can hold Garrett to the flames. You WILL finish every snap, you WILL NOT turn your back on the play just because a running back busted to the second level, you WILL do the little things that help your team win, and you WILL NOT watch your teammates run after a play while you turn off the engines.
Because if not, we have two very willing and capable pass rushers who will gladly step in for you while you dress up your lawn with gravestones of quarterbacks who beat you in games.