CLEVELAND — Hello from the Doug Dieken Radio Booth here at FirstEnergy Stadium.
That's right, my partner of 23 years called it the end of his broadcast career today. What a way to go out, as the Browns end up winning over the Cincinnati Bengals 21-16.
The story of the game for the Browns? D'Ernest Johnson, who helped them run really at-will. They end up dominating the game — first downs, time of possession, and just enough on the scoreboard to end the year at 8-9.
Is it the season that the Browns wanted? In no way did it end up that way. Should they be going to the playoffs next week? Absolutely, when you take a look at that roster. There will be plenty of time, but a lot of time will have to be spent in a deep evaluation as to what happened to this football team after falling short of such high expectations.
If you just take a look at it very quickly, the Browns did not win the close games this year. Any time they were in a tight affair against a formidable opponent, they could never break through and get that last drive down the field to score and take over the football game.
You go back to that rescheduled Monday night game against Las Vegas, a gallant effort, for sure. It's third-down-and-3, and they couldn't make that one play (the run to Nick Chubb) that could hold onto the football, kill the clock, and win. At least at that time, it would've gotten them to 8-6, first place in the AFC North.
Those close games that went the other way are why we are calling it a season at the end of the regular season and there is no postseason.
So as the Browns begin to take this thing apart, there are a lot of tough questions that need answers. Up at the top of the list: What about quarterback Baker Mayfield? Was the sub-par season because he was so physically hurt that he could not play the position the way he needed to, or are there other problems?
What happened to this Browns offense that was so prolific at this time of the year last year, shooting into the playoffs? It struggled all year long, and even in this game, they came up empty a couple of times in the red zone with interceptions and fourth-down misses.
Those are clearly Nos. 1 and 2 when it comes to "What happened to this football team in 2021?" Now, what do they do next?
Well, they're going to have to throw the football much better next season, because it still is a passing league. They'll also have to hope for good health on that offensive line, as well as the one-two punch of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt returning to form physically to give them that running game. But the guy who throws it is going to have to be better, and the people who catch it are going to have to be better.
Other than Donovan Peoples-Jones making a big catch down in Cincinnati in that blowout win, the Browns' wide receivers this year were never a big part of any kind of explosive plays. Everybody else was way below where they wanted to be, and of course, OBJ left and went west to the LA Rams mid-season.
The tight end position was another big disappointment. In an offense that is based around friendly throws to those players, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant just didn't produce big numbers and big plays this season.
At the start of the year, it looked as though the Browns' defense was going to be the Achilles heel to this team, but not so. By the end of the year, they were the driving force for the team. They played very well, and remember, last offseason they went all-in spending on defensive free agents and left the offense alone.
That will have to change this year. The defense looks good, and was getting better and better the more they played together. The offense, on the other hand, may need a major overhaul — at least some people that can give them some production, especially in the passing game.
So, it's all over. 8-9, not where the Browns wanted to be. On into the offseason we go.
From the Doug Dieken Radio Booth, best of luck to my partner.