Freddie Kitchens carried his Monday message to the team into the press conference room, laying out in frank terms what’s holding back the Browns from reaching their potential.
Kitchens acknowledged the talent the team possesses on both sides of the ball and, in some places, surpluses. That, talent, though hasn’t gotten the Browns to where they envisioned they’d be heading into their Week 7 bye.
“All this talent we’ve got,” Kitchens said, “that’s gotten us 2-4.”
Check out photos of the Browns in action against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday
It’s that record, Kitchens said, that has put the Browns at a bit of a crossroads near the midpoint of their 2019 season. The schedule eases a bit -- based on the opponents’ record, at least -- but not before the Browns travel to New England in their first game after the bye.
And as Kitchens and Browns players explain it, the problems that have prevented that 2-4 record from looking better than it is have had little, if anything, to do with the opposition. Kitchens wants the Browns to look inward as they tackle the next 13 days separating them from a chance at redemption in a game few outside of the building will expect to be any different than the previous six.
“At some point, we’ve got to become a team,” Kitchens said. “The difference between a group and a team is significant. So to be a team, you have to do your job. And then you bring it together collectively, and then you become a team and you trust the guy beside you that is going to do their job. That is how you become a team. Until you get to that point, you are a group. The better team beat our group yesterday.
“We tried to do that during training camp but you do not get that. You do not figure that out sometimes until you hit adversity. That is when you realize, are you a group or are you a team. Well, hopefully when we go to New England we will be a team.”
Adversity has come in all shapes and sizes since the start of the season, one that began on as big of a down note in recent memory. The Browns traded wins and losses through the first five weeks before dropping Sunday’s game to the Seahawks, 32-28, for their second loss in a row.
This one hit hard for players who believed they not only should have won the game, but done so in dominant fashion after beginning the day with three touchdowns on three possessions. The performance came after a week of practice many described as the best of the season, and Kitchens saw plenty that directly carried over from those practices into the game.
There were just too many mistakes and self-inflicted wounds that allowed “the better team” to hang around and ultimately prevail.
Asked if players are letting their individual goals get ahead of the team’s goals, Kitchens said, “we are going to find out.”
“I do not mind having individual goals. And I’m not going to bash the people on our team. There is a commitment level here to doing your job,” Kitchens said. “So it could be the punter is going to effect the offense and the offense is going to effect the defense, and the defense is going to effect the special teams. Everything kind of goes hand and hand here. This is not rocket science. It is you do your job and that puts yourself in a better position to be successful. And in return it would get the team moving in that same direction."
The Browns have seen the direction they believe they can go. It was as clear as day when they walked off the field Week 4 in Baltimore with a convincing, 40-25 victory.
There’ve just been two steps back since that one step forward. With only 10 more opportunities to take steps forward, the Browns can’t afford much more backpedaling.
“We just have to find a way to do the things that we do well consistently,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. “As far as a team and as a group, I think, obviously what these men go through, what we go through, it brings us together in a unique way.
“I would definitely say that we are a team, but I would think the biggest thing I am trying to say is, like I said last week, we need to find ways to continue to play to our potential. That is the biggest thing.”