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The Ravens game is a checkup for the ailing Cleveland Browns and Baker Mayfield: Bud Shaw’s Sports Spin

Forget the season finale in Cincy. The Browns have one last chance to salvage a positive.
Credit: AP

CLEVELAND — Nothing flattering to the Browns can happen in the final Sunday in Cincinnati. So this is really a one-game season now.

Lose in Cincy and, well, remember “Mad Max: Fury Road?” The apocalypse in Berea will make that look like a Disney movie.

Meanwhile, beating a one-win team doesn’t even warrant a post-game ice cream at Graeter’s.

So Sunday vs. the Ravens is it, the final exam after a season of so much delinquency for the Browns.

Baker Mayfield, the first pick in the 2018 draft, measuring up to Lamar Jackson, the fifth quarterback taken.

One of them regressing, the other ascending.

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It becomes even harder to justify Mayfield’s season using the always weak and insufficient “sophomore slump” argument when the even-younger second-year quarterback across the field leads the NFL in touchdown passes and QB rushing yards on his way to the league MVP.

The Ravens haven’t lost since late September — so long ago the Browns looked like the division favorite after beating them, 40-25.

It’s hardly fair to judge Freddie Kitchens first year against John Harbaugh’s legacy in Baltimore. Except even that statement comes with a few sticking points.

Harbaugh was a first-year coach in Baltimore in 2008 when the Ravens went 11-5 and won twice in the playoffs before losing the AFC title game to Pittsburgh.

They were 5-11 the previous year. Harbaugh directed a turnaround with a rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco. Like Kitchens, Harbaugh had never been a head coach anywhere.

So this game is more than Mayfield-Jackson. It’s as much an organizational checkup for the Browns as anything else.

RELATED: Baker Mayfield: Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson ‘is killing it, MVP chants well deserved’

A week after failing to match a three-win Arizona team in effort, they get measured against a team that has won 10 straight and is still chasing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs..

A team that couldn’t feel better about the two most important jobs in football — quarterback and head coach.

  • ESPN.com attached a two-word label to the approaching offseason of all 32 NFL teams. For the Browns, it chose “self-contemplative.”

Translation: what in the name of God went wrong? Are there enough mirrors around here?

  • The Browns were 22nd in the latest USA TODAY power rankings, four spots behind the Cardinals.

The 4-9-1 Cardinals.

Who are 1-6 in their last seven games.

In case you were wondering about the lingering effects of seeing the Browns get rolled by a team that has more reason than most to be more concerned with tee times than game times, there you have it.

  • Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken on still unresolved offensive issues, the layman’s term for which is “getting lined up correctly.”

Actually, I think that’s also the technical term.

“It is frustrating because then you put Baker [Mayfield] up against it in terms of the clock and trying to get us in the right protection and those kind of things,” Monken told the media Thursday. “It has been frustrating and it lends yourself to be choppy, lends yourself into burning timeouts when you do not need them and taking penalties when you do not have to. It’s something that has been an issue and something we’ve tried to correct.”

The Browns had a delay of game penalty Sunday in Arizona on the first play after the Cardinals scored and kicked off.

That’s forgivable if it’s OTAs.

The first day of OTAs.

  • The loss to Arizona clinched the 12th consecutive season without a winning record for the Browns — in case you bet that it absolutely had to be longer than that.
  • A new study suggests dinosaurs roaming our planet may have suffered from mercury poisoning related to a volcanic eruption before an asteroid slammed into earth and caused their extinction.

Scientists, of course, can’t be 100 percent positive.

And Tom Coughlin isn’t saying.

  • The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Coughlin, their head of football operations, for the second time.

Ownership did not mention the NFLPA’s recent grievance win over the Jags for excessive player fines but no doubt it sped the decision to part with Coughlin.

Running back Leonard Fournette won his grievance after being fined last year for sitting on the bench as an inactive player.

I know. You might think sitting is the definition of an inactive player.

But Fournette showed little interest in anything happening on the field, prompting Coughlin to wonder why the running back even traveled to the game.

And Fournette to wonder how just that could’ve added up to a $99,000 fine.

If Trooper Tom Coughlin stops you, save the story. You’re not getting off with a warning.

  • Former Jags player Dante Fowler also won a grievance against the team and Coughlin, who fined him 25 times totaling $700,000 for rehabbing away from the team facility.

Unless Fowler’s response to getting fined was “Thank you sir, may I have another,” that seems a little excessive.

  • On the first day in the Jags facility, post-Coughlin, the equipment staff readjusted the clocks in the facility.

Coughlin had set the clocks five minutes behind. So if the clock said you were three minutes early to a meeting, you were actually late.

The equipment staff set the clocks five minutes ahead to help players make meetings on time.

I suspect game officials would veto John Dorsey’s request to do the same with the play clock when the Browns are on offense.

  • Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the former Buckeyes star, doesn’t want to look back.

At least not all the way back to September when he appeared in his first NFL game against the New York Giants.

“I throw up watching that film,” Haskins told the media this week. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Haskins threw three interceptions on just 17 attempts in the 24-3 loss.

If only You Said It contributors were as hard on themselves.

RELATED: The devil is in the details for Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens: Bud Shaw’s You Said It

  • Chris Paul purchased custom suits for his Oklahoma City teammates to wear.

To be outdone, Baker Mayfield is said to be considering buying 53 undershirts and robes from the Big Lebowski Collection for the final game in Cincinnati.

  • Going out with a win over Cincinnati is a lock.


  • Drew Brees was 29 for 30 against the Indianapolis Colts Monday night in a 34-7 win.

On a night he surpassed Peyton Manning’s record of 539 career touchdown passes, Brees somehow upstaged himself with his accuracy.

He said the single incompletion will “haunt me for a while,” proving that by Cleveland standards he does not know the meaning of “haunt” or “for awhile.”

  • Ravens 30, Browns 23
  • Record to date: too embarrassing to say.
  • Happy holidays.

RELATED: ‘Finish the right way.’ Cleveland Browns trying to ‘raise the standards’ for franchise

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