BEREA, Ohio - Inconsistent, undisciplined and underachieving quickly come to mind when trying to describe a once-promising Browns season that becomes more disappointing by the minute.

But 2019 may some day be known as the Season of Mystery. And the mysteries revolve around the incessant brush fires that keep popping up between the coaching staff and players.

Why through 12 games haven't the Browns found a way to get the ball to three-time Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr.?

How did receiver Rashard Higgins go from quarterback Baker Mayfield's go-to guy to the forgotten man?

Why did Higgins disagree with the team on when he was ready to return from a knee injury? Why is tight end David Njoku now going down the same path as he waits to be activated from injured reserve after breaking his right wrist?

Did receiver Jarvis Landry run the wrong route when ex-Brown Joe Haden picked off Mayfield with 1:06 remaining Sunday, sealing the Steelers' 20-13 victory? Was that what led to Landry's heated discussion with quarterbacks coach Ryan Lindley on the sideline that prompted injured linebacker/captain Christian Kirksey to intervene?

How could pass-rushing linebacker Genard Avery be traded to the Eagles and defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence be waived, yet both were praised by defensive coordinator Steve Wilks days before or after those moves? (Wilks called Lawrence, signed to the Chiefs practice squad Saturday, "one of my favorites" last week. On Oct. 24, Wilks said Avery had "a great skillset ... tremendous speed off the edge." Four days later he was gone.)

Did starting safety Damarious Randall refuse to practice last week, prompting coach Freddie Kitchens to leave him home for Sunday's game?

Some of the mysteries are disciplinary, which presumably includes Randall. Some, like Avery, could be a player not fitting the scheme, although Avery's presence might have helped the Browns pressure the quarterback in the absence of defensive end Myles Garrett (suspended) and Olivier Vernon (knee injury). Some might be instances of players' poor preparation and practice habits or lack of attention to detail. Of late, plays made by undrafted rookie tight end Stephen Carlson of Princeton - including a nasty stiff arm on cornerback Steven Nelson on a 21-yard gain Sunday - seem to be delaying Njoku's return.

So many unanswered questions contribute to the endless drama that has dragged down the 5-7 Browns, their hopes of the final AFC wild card virtually all but gone. They also open the door to speculation on whether players have lost trust and/or confidence in Kitchens, even though he has kept the reasons for the disagreements in house.

The latest issues involve Randall and Landry. The latter prompted a believable answer from Kitchens Monday, on the former Kitchens clarified nothing.

ESPN's Jake Trotter reported that Randall skipped a practice last week, which Kitchens would not confirm.

"I'm not going to comment on why," Kitchens said. "Listen, I don't take those decisions lightly because I know it could potentially affect the team. But sometimes when you make decisions like that it's for the 52 other guys as well."

Kitchens wouldn't say if Randall practiced on Thanksgiving, when the media did not attend.

"You're trying to get to the reason he wasn't there. You know what? I made a decision; we're living with that decision," Kitchens said.

Kitchens said Randall would return to work this week and "I'm assuming we'll do everything we need to do to be on the field."

"Damarious has my trust," Kitchens said. "It has nothing to do with trust. I trust these guys as long as they show me they can be trustworthy. Moving forward, I don't have a problem with Damarious."

The emotional discussion between Landry and Lindley was captured by CBS, as well as photographers. Kitchens hinted that there was miscommunication between Landry and Mayfield on the interception, saying "We are going to continue to work hard on our communication in those critical moments," but would not chastise Landry for the outburst.

"Jarvis is an emotional player," Kitchens said. "I do not think that is a big deal. I think that is part of the game. Our guys put a lot into this game, so anytime you see it not happening or unfolding the way you want it to unfold, of course there is going to be passion and stuff that is exuded out. That is understandable. That is what makes Jarvis such a special player."

Kitchens also refrained from criticizing Beckham for yelling and staring at the sideline after a 19-yard catch with 9:35 left in the game. Beckham caught just three passes for 29 yards Sunday and has totaled 57 catches for 805 yards and two touchdowns with the Browns.

"I did not see any barking," Kitchens said of Beckham. "I certainly did not hear anything. Odell has done a good job of keeping his emotions in check. I want him to play with passion on the field. I want him to get balls, too."

Landry and Beckham kept their emotions in check afterward by leaving the locker room before it was open to the media.

They might have departed Heinz Field with the same questions as the devoted fans of Believeland. Will the Browns find ways to get their playmakers the ball in the final four games? Will Njoku see action again in 2019? Will Higgins ever get Mayfield to look his way?

The Season of Mystery still has four weeks to go, and one can never predict the farfetched issues that might arise. The only certainty is that pinning down the whys may continue to be a necessary, yet pointless exercise.

Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com

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