Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs offense have been the toast of the NFL so far this season. At 7-1, they head into this Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns feeling like a Super Bowl contender and, for Mahomes, a potential MVP candidate.
The Browns are headed in the opposite direction. After starting the season 2-2-1 and looking like the light at the end of the tunnel was finally there for Coach Hue Jackson, they have lost three straight games. This week, Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were both let go and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was elevated to the role of interim head coach. Now, coming off this whirlwind week, they draw the unenviable task of attempting to slow down the Chiefs.
NFL ON CBS analyst Trent Green will be in Cleveland for this game alongside Greg Gumbel, Bruce Arians and sideline reporter Melanie Collins when it kicks off at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS. We caught up with Trent to get his insight into how the Browns players may be dealing with the shakeups, what type of coach the organization should look for in the offseason, and the strengths of Patrick Mahomes’ game. (Editor’s note: This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed)
CBS Local Sports: The Browns just fired their head coach and offensive coordinator. As a team, how do you regroup from that to focus on the next game?
Trent Green: Unfortunately in my career that happened to me on one of the teams I was on. It’s one of those things that as players you have to put it behind you and keep moving forward. It’s not as if they are going to say ‘We feel sorry for you, we’re going to give you a week off to get regrouped and figure out how things are going to run.’
Unfortunately, that’s part of the business. It’s a harsh reality that you’re paid to play and that is what you have to do. The coaches try to make that transition as smooth as possible. It’s not as if there is going to be wholesale changes where they are changing the terminology that is being used. But, it’s a harsh reality. If you’re a younger player, you’re wondering if this is really happening. And if you’re a veteran guy you say ‘Alright, we just have to keep plugging away.’
It’s going to take the veteran guys on that team to keep everybody focused on what is going on.
CBS Local Sports: When looking at the Browns, who are the guys that you think they should have in mind for the head coaching job after the regular season?
Trent Green: I don’t have any specific names but I think there are two trains of thought for the next hire. The first one is, you have a young quarterback that you just took first overall. Who is going to come in and be best for Baker Mayfield and this offense going forward? Is that going to be a young guy, a Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay type?
Or, the other direction is, who is connected to John Dorsey? He has been in the league for a long time and has connections all over the league. Matt Nagy is off the list because he became head coach of the Bears, but is there a guy like that who John Dorsey has a connection to that fits in that similar mold? Those would be the two things I’m looking at when trying to figure out who the next head coach will be.
CBS Local Sports: On the flip side of this game, the Chiefs are one of the best teams in the game, and Patrick Mahomes has been the talk of the league. As a former quarterback, what are the strengths and weaknesses you see in this game?
Trent Green: It’s hard to point out any weaknesses when you’re performing the way that he is. Even from a numbers standpoint, touchdown to interception ratio, yardage, all those things, it’s hard to find a negative.
On the positive side, he’s much further along than I thought he would be at this point in time. You have to remember, it’s still just his second year and he’s only 23-years-old. The freedoms and volumes that Andy Reid is putting on him and allowing him to do are much further along than I thought he would be. He has a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage and can get in and out of plays. They’re not handcuffing him in any way with what he is able to do.
There was a lot made of his arm strength and athletic ability to get out of the pocket and extend plays coming out of college. He has showcased both of those things throughout the first half of the season. The thing that has stood out most to me in terms of fundamental football is his ability to stand in the pocket. Young quarterbacks, when under pressure, don’t necessarily go through their reads. He has worked through progressions, used his eyes to influence defenses and move defenders so that guys get open. That has really jumped out to me.
CBS Local Sports: What’s the key matchup you’re watching for in this game?
Trent Green: There are a lot of good storylines here. The Chiefs on defense have some deficiencies that teams have been able to exploit. On offense, they have caught the league by storm with some of the things they are doing.
But, if you’re thinking individually, I want to see Tyreek Hill versus Denzel Ward. Ward is a young, up-and-coming corner in this league. Greg, Bruce, Melanie and I had the first game of the season in Cleveland between the Browns and Steelers and Ward picked off Ben Roethlisberger twice in that game. His skill set is impressive and this will be a good challenge for him. Tyreek is one of the fastest players in the league and seeing those two young guys going against each other will be fun.
CBS Local Sports: In the Big Apple, the Dolphins and Jets both come in struggling. Let’s start with the Dolphins, they’re starting their backup QB, which is always hard but outside of that what’s the biggest reason you’ve seen for their recent struggles?
Trent Green: Without breaking down the film specifically, we had both the Dolphins and Jets in games this year. Coaches always hate to use the excuse of injuries, but when you lose your quarterback, that has a huge impact on the offensive side of things. Not only that, they also lost wide receiver Albert Wilson and when things were going well for them this year, he was a big part of it.
Outside of that, the thing that has jumped out the most is some of the struggles they have had on the defensive side of the ball. I thought they were ready to take the next step on that side of things but so far they have struggled to do so this year.
CBS Local Sports: For the Jets, Sam Darnold and the offense have had trouble getting going the past two weeks albeit against good defenses, how should they look to light a spark for that unit this week?
Trent Green: We had the Jets a couple weeks ago when they had the win over the Colts and things were going really well. But, as you said, they have faced a couple of tough defenses in the last two weeks. Anytime you have a young quarterback, unless you’re Patrick Mahomes and have weapons all over the place, you want to get the run game going which allows you to get play action passes. When they were playing well earlier in the season he was mostly having 200-yard passing games with balance in the offense. If they get back to more of that balance and then hit the play action pass off of it, that would probably be the best way to go.