This column is about Cleveland Browns’ ineptitude, which has reached a point where their fans are now waiting, with bated breath, for an accused serial sexual predator to save their season. Is Deshaun Watson really that good that he can actually turn things around at the end of his 11-game suspension? Not likely. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
We’ll start with Nick Chubb, who went into Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots with a career average of 5.377 yards per carry, which was the highest such mark for a running back in NFL history. Was.
Chubb carried 12 times for 56 yards as the Browns got blown off their own field by Bill Belichick. Final score: 38-15. By the time it was over, Chubb’s career average had been shaved by nine-thousandths of a point, to 5.368 yards per carry. This lost whisker dropped him to second place – behind former Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (5.375) − on the all-time yards-per-carry list for running backs.
It was sad.
In the grand scheme of things, 0.009 yards is just a few blades of grass, fairly inconsequential. NFL record keepers round up such numbers so, this morning, Chubb’s average is still 5.4, and he’s still tied with Charles for the best yards-per-carry average. He’s still ahead of Jim Brown (5.2), Mercury Morris (5.1), Aaron Jones (5.1), Gale Sayers (5.0) and Barry Sanders (5.0).
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Everyone else who ever played the position is 4.9 or under. Emmitt Smith, the all-time leader in career rushing yards, had just one season where he averaged more than 5 yards per carry. His career average is 4.2 Walter Payton’s is 4.4.
It remains well within the realm of possibility that Chubb, who is 26 and in his fifth pro season, can push his average to 5.5 yards per carry, although it’s not likely he can maintain such a rate. He’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry this season, but his job description is brutal, and only Bo Jackson knows how long a career can last.
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The Browns have one of the greatest running backs in the history of the game. It’s not sacrilege to say that Chubb is another Jim Brown. People of a certain age might look at Chubb and see Barry Sanders, and nobody thought they’d ever see another Sanders.
What are the Browns doing with (arguably) the greatest running back of all time? Not much. It’s like the Detroit Lions with Sanders, who is high on the list of the greatest players, at any position, to never play in a Super Bowl, and who suffered from a franchise whose ineptitude is stuff of legend.
It’s sad to see this for Chubb. To Browns fans, it’s also infuriating. This was a team that some thought was among the best in the AFC. Even if you didn’t quite buy that – the Browns have holes in their roster, particularly at wideout, and they have a quarterback problem – this team has some players. Edge rusher Myles Garrett is among the best of his era.
Garrett was supposed to be the linchpin of a solid defense. Sunday, somebody by the name of Bailey Zappe quarterbacked the Patriots to 399 total yards and a 23-point victory over the Browns, in Cleveland. The defense Zappe faced was collapsible.
If you’re a Browns fan, you know that your team could’ve started 5-0 if not for an epic meltdown against the New York Jets, a poorly managed final drive in Atlanta and a missed field goal against the Los Angeles Chargers.
As it is, the Browns are 2-4, they’ve lost three in a row and the bottom line is bad defense.
“Another blown assignment” has become a play-by-play catchphrase. The Browns can’t cover anybody, and now they’re getting picked apart by somebody named Bailey Zappe. What made everything worse was they couldn’t even run the ball. That’s one thing they know how to do. They’ve got (arguably) the greatest running back of all time, not to mention a talented backup in Kareem Hunt, and they couldn’t run the ball. Against Belichick.
Browns fans are agitated and a lot of them want defensive coordinator Joe Woods to get axed. Some of them are beginning to wonder about coach Kevin Stefanski, too.
With a game at Baltimore followed by a home game against Cincinnati coming ahead of their bye week, the Browns might be out of the playoff picture by the end of Halloween night.
Chubb has experienced one winning season in five. Soon enough, it may be one in six.