Browns face ‘must win’ Thursday night against Jets

Opportunity to end winless streak knocks on national TV

Daryl Ruiter
September 19, 2018 - 2:09 pm
Cleveland Browns Tyrod Taylor New Orleans Saints

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – ‘Must win’ is one of the more overused clichés in sports.

But when it comes to the Browns hosting the New York Jets Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, there isn’t a better description of the significance of the game from Cleveland’s perspective.

What better time to end the winless streak than to do it in front of a national TV audience with the entire league watching?

The last 2 times the Browns played on national TV, they lost to the Ravens – Nov. 10, 2016: a 28-7 loss at Baltimore and the last time hosted in prime time came on Nov. 30, 2015: a 33-27 loss to the Ravens that ended in the infamous kick-6.

Good news, the Jets and not the Ravens are in town.

The Browns are also favored in this game marking the first time that’s happened since Dec. 2015.

New York should be jetlagged as they will play their third game in 11 days, and the second on the road, so a shoutout to the football gods and schedule-makers.

Following a last-minute loss at New Orleans Sunday and a Week 1 21-21 tie with the Steelers, close calls and moral victories no longer cut it. A loss to No.3 overall pick Sam Darnold and the Jets would drop the Browns to 0-2-1 and extend the winless streak to 21 games with a trip to Oakland awaiting in 10 days.

A visit from the Ravens and upstart Chargers follows in Weeks 5 and 6, which brings us to mid-October where if they haven’t cracked the win column, the internal rumbling and grumbling typically begins and culminates with yet another ‘December in Berea.’

Nobody wants that.

Before we look too far ahead, let’s get back to Thursday night and Darnold.

The Browns passed on the former USC QB in favor of Baker Mayfield at No. 1 in April allowing Darnold to fall to the Jets at No. 3. Mayfield is watching from the bench behind Tyrod Taylor while Darnold already has 1 impressive performance – his first throw as a pick-6 notwithstanding – already under his belt.

The last 2 times the Browns faced a rookie quarterback that they passed on in a draft just a few months earlier resulted in ugly losses.

Last season Deshaun Watson, whom Cleveland passed on by trading the No. 12 pick to Houston for the Texans to select Watson, completed 17 of 29 passes for 225 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception in a 33-17 victory over the Browns.

A year earlier Carson Wentz lit the Browns up in a 29-10 win that saw him complete 22 of 37 passes for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns. Cleveland so infamously traded the No. 2 pick to Philadelphia for a bushel load of draft picks that were multiplied but produced too few impact players from the deal.

The Browns can ill afford to have it happen for a third straight year.

Head coach Hue Jackson has demonstrated that players respect and respond to and play hard for him, but he’s not shown the ability to win. With a revamped roster featuring 33 new players, the time is now to start winning football games.

Tyrod Taylor, who has completed just 52.9 percent of his passes with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions combined in the first 2 games, needs a strong performance to keep calls for Mayfield quiet.

New offensive coordinator Todd Haley clearly is trying to sort through how, when and where to use his personnel and skill players – which is understandable – but the picture on his side of the ball should start to come into focus starting this week.  

Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has seen his defense force 8 turnovers – 3 of them interceptions – through 2 games and Williams must be salivating at the types of coverages he’s going to throw at Darnold to test and confuse the rookie.

So, pick your reason: the winless streak, being on national TV, favored to win, not wanting Darnold to show you up or Hue’s record.

Thursday is as must-win as it gets.