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ESPN offseason report card gives the Browns a C+

One executive says handing the keys to Freddie Kitchens “would scare him to death.”

NFL: Cleveland Browns-2021 NFL Draft Press Conference Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, ESPN’s Mike Sando compiled offseason report cards for every team in the NFL. We are used to hearing such glowing things about the Browns’ offseason, so it might come as a surprise to hear that the Cleveland Browns were given a C+ grade.

One thing to note, though, is that it is a tough grading scale. The Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers each received a C grade. Therefore, even though a C+ seems low for Cleveland, it’s actually the best grade in the division. The only team in the NFL that made it into the A-range was the Indianapolis Colts.

The funnest part about Sando’s report card is reading all of the anonymous quotes he obtained from league executives.

  • One executive likes the Browns’ talent level, but is “scared to death” of having an inexperienced Freddie Kitchens at the helm with so many personalities:

“Handing this roster to Freddie Kitchens, who has never been a coordinator, let alone a head coach, would scare me to death. The talent might be good enough so that it doesn’t matter, but it is also combustible. You are already seeing signs with Odell.”

  • Another executive said “I think whatever success Cleveland has will be fleeting,” because the team is taking on talented-but-troubled newcomers in WR Odell Beckham Jr, RB Kareem Hunt, and DT Sheldon Richardson, without laying down a stable foundation.
  • A salary cap administrator thinks that the moves that GM John Dorsey is making will make it tough for them to re-sign their home-grown talent down the road.
  • A head coach thinks that QB Baker Mayfield has the makeup and personality to “roll with whatever waves that Beckham or others make.”
  • Another executive gave the Browns credit for their bold turnaround, but feel like because of the mass acquisitions, there is a ton of pressure on Kitchens to win immediately — and his leadership capability in that role remains an unknown.

“Face it, with that ownership and these expectations, Freddie Kitchens is coaching for his job in Year 1, which is insane. I give the Browns really high marks for their talent acquisitions at a time when that division is in transition, but it is going to take great leadership to get that done, and there is no track record of that leadership there.”

  • One executive says that Mayfield and Beckham’s personalities are “bigger than the franchise,” and he thinks there is “zero chance” that Beckham actually wanted to be traded to Cleveland compared to big markets like New York or Los Angeles.
  • Lastly, there is one executive who actually just had praise for Cleveland, talking about the team’s impressive skill players and how Mayfield is the real deal. They liked the swap of Kevin Zeitler for Olivier Vernon, and believes the team will go 10-6 this year, with 2020 being the real “key year” for the team.

Whew, that’s a lot to digest! Agree or disagree, remember that these are executives from other NFL teams. You’ll get a combination of objectivity, but also a bias lens depending on what team they are on. For some executives, being a division rival may shape their opinion, while for others, they might remain objective.