Joel Bitonio's Exit Interview 1/10/22


On finishing the season 8-9 and the frustration and disappointment with how the 2021 season ended:

“It was definitely frustrating. After the Kansas City loss in the playoffs, I thought we were a few pieces away from really having a chance to compete for a championship this year. Obviously, that did not come to fruition, but I do have faith in this building and I have faith in the people in the building that we are going to make it right, and it is never easy. It was definitely a frustrating season. I do not think there is one thing you can point to. Overall, definitely disappointing for us.”

On if the Browns can improve on the unity and chemistry of the team:

“I think you can always improve the chemistry of the group, but I honestly think we do have a good group. Like I was saying, from the top down, (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew Berry and (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski, we are all on the same page still. We all want to win. We all want to get to the point of being the last team standing eventually. The guys in the locker room bought in. The defense played really well the second half of the season, and there was never any bickering between guys. I think the guys are close in this locker room, and the guys who come back are going learn from this and really, truly fight for each other next year.”

On his mental approach knowing the Browns will have some players returning and some new players with the focus of building chemistry early in the season to have the desired success:

“Every year, especially in the NFL, even the best teams turnover their roster – probably 10 guys at the bottom of their roster, draft picks and things like that. We are going to be in a similar offense we have had the last couple of years so most of the guys here are going to know it pretty well, and that is going to be easier for guys to step in and take that next step when the guys around them kind of know what is expected of them and know the culture and the scheme that we are going to be running.”

On his understanding of how difficult it is to reach the postseason and if or how he is able to reiterate that message to teammates next season:

“At the end of the year, you have these exit meetings, and you meet with GMs, coaches and other players, and you want to kind of set a foundation going into next year. I think one of the things is you never know when the game or the moment is going to matter. You watch the Raiders last night, and they made the playoffs and Pittsburgh finds a way to make the playoffs. One or two games change early in the season change in your favor, and you are right there with them. From that mindset, we just talk about, ‘Hey, when you can be out there and when you can play and provide, every little play is going to matter.’ You do not have to play tight about it, but just know that every moment of these seasons is important. It is not going to be like, ‘The Browns have a good roster. They are going to the playoffs this year.’ There were injuries, there was COVID and there were things that happened this year, but we had the guys to make the playoffs no matter what regarding those things, and we did not execute well enough to really do that. I think there is a focus on every game matters and every moment matters, and you never know when that is going to really flip your season.”

On RB Nick Chubb missing three games but still finishing second in the NFL in rushing and if the team and Browns OL still have a desire to get Chubb a rushing title:

“Nick is a beast. He runs hard. He has really everything you want in a running back, and he is so humble and he works so hard. I want all of the good fortune for Nick on the football field because he deserves it. Like you said, he missed a few games. Obviously, (Colts RB) Jonathan Taylor and (Titans RB) Derrick Henry are great running backs, and they both had good years – Derrick Henry obviously got hurt – but Nick is going to come out and work. The one positive about our running back situation is we have (RBs) D’Ernest (Johnson), Kareem (Hunt) and guys who can take some of the workload off of him so he does not need to run the ball 30 times. I think that is going to help the longevity of his career. Yeah, the rushing title would be great, but honestly, we are at the point now where we want wins. Nick might not ever get 30 carries a game like some of these other running backs get. He might be in that 20-carry game if Kareem is getting five or 10 and D’Ernest is getting five. It is always going to be a little bit spread out, but we know when we give that guy the ball, good things are going to happen.”


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