CLEVELAND (AP) – Zane Gonzalez got kicked straight to the curb.
The Browns released the wayward kicker on Monday after his four misses on Sunday in New Orleans cost Cleveland a possible first win since 2016 with a 21-18 loss to the Saints.
Gonzalez has been replaced by rookie free agent Greg Joseph, one of several kickers to work out for the Browns following Sunday’s kicking calamity. Joseph won’t have much time to become acquainted with his new teammates as Cleveland hosts the New York Jets on Thursday night.
“Obviously, we have to find someone that can put the ball through the uprights,” coach Hue Jackson said after Joseph signed. “We have had this situation happen now for a couple of weeks. We have to keep searching and keep looking.”
Joseph was with the Miami Dolphins during training camp and preseason, but he was beaten out for the starting job by Jason Sanders. The 24-year-old Joseph, who kicked for four seasons at Florida Atlantic, made 3 of 3 field-goal attempts in four exhibitions with Miami.
Gonzalez’s meltdown in the Superdome was the latest malfunction for the Browns, who have played well enough to be 2-0 but remain winless since Dec. 24, 2016.
Gonzalez, who had a potential game-winning field goal blocked in OT in the season opener, misfired on two extra points and two field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder in the final seconds – with owner Jimmy Haslam standing under the crossbar – that would have forced overtime on Sunday.
Jackson confirmed a report that Gonzalez was dealing with a groin injury, but said he didn’t know the player was hurt.
“That was not reported to me that Zane was hurt,” Jackson said. “I did not know and nobody had ever reported to me from our medical department that Zane was hurt.”
Gonzalez did not appear on the team’s injury report in the season’s first two weeks.
After his last kick sailed off course, Gonzalez sat alone hanging his head while sitting on the Browns’ bench before being consoled by Saints kicker Wil Lutz.
“It’s on me 100 percent. Can’t blame it on nobody else,” Gonzalez, a seventh-round pick in 2017, said afterward. “Sucks that we were so close to that win and it’s been so long and just let everybody down.”
The Browns were out of timeouts when Gonzalez lined up for his ill-fated final kick with 8 seconds remaining. Jackson felt it was too risky to run another pass play to try and get him closer.
“We felt that it normally takes 10-12 seconds to pull that off to where we felt we would have a chance,” he said. They (the Saints defense) moved out guarding the sideline as it was and then all kinds of things go through your mind. He has a job. The kicker’s job is to make extra points and to make field goals.
“I think we played it as well as we could, but obviously, always a day after, you will think through a lot of different scenarios, but I thought we played it the best we could in real time yesterday.”
It was another painful loss for Jackson, now 1-32-1 in two-plus seasons in Cleveland. There are no consolation prizes for coming close, and Jackson said losing when one element breaks down hurts as much if the Browns had been blown out.
“They all sting,” he said. “There is not one that stings more than the other to be honest with you. These things are tough, but we are getting through it. It is a loss. It still counts as a loss, and we have got to get that righted.
“There was a time where we were not close so we are close. I feel good about the next hurdle for us – just go do it. That is what we have to do.”