In the midst of the NFL offseason, we at the Armchair All-Americans have decided to do a list of reasons why each team will make the playoffs as well as reasons that they won’t. Considering this is an article about the Cleveland Browns, I’m sure those reading can imagine how unrealistically optimistic and tragically honest these reasons are. Time to #TakeASeat and enjoy these far-fetched hot takes and bitter truths.
Reasons Why the Browns Will Make the Playoffs
1) Defense will get them there
The Browns’ defense did not fare well last year, finishing near the bottom of the league in most categories. That is not for a lack of talent, but rather, a lack of experience.
The team has added a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball the past two years and they have 11 draft picks for the 2018 draft as well.
The Browns defense is stacked with talented players such as Carl Nassib, Nate Orchard, Larry Ogunjobi, Trey Caldwell, Dominique Alexander, Emmanuel Ogbah, and many more. The Browns have more future potential in their young players than a lot of teams do. But they need to develop and they need some veterans to help mold them into elite athletes.
With many of these players having a year or two under their belt, I look for them to grow and progress tremendously and perform much better than they have in previous years. They say defense wins championships, but for the Browns, defense may be the key to landing a spot in the playoffs.
2) Cavs have won a title, Indians made the World Series, Browns???
While the Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t able to secure a Finals win this year, they did manage to bring the first major sports championship since 1964 to the city in 2016. Last year, the Cleveland Indians also managed to go seven games in the World Series before losing to a much deserving Chicago Cubs team. Who’s left?
Due to the success of the other Cleveland teams in recent years, it stands to reason that it is time for the Cleveland Browns to finally partake in greatness. If LeBron James can come back to the Cavs and bring a championship with him and the Tribe can reach the final stage for the first time since 1997, why can’t the Browns make it to the playoffs?
I was seven when the Browns last reached the playoffs in 2002 and I remember watching the game. It was lightly snowing and the Browns played well for three quarters. With a lead of 24-7, the Browns looked poised to win a playoff game. But Tommy Maddox led the Steelers to overcome the deficit. The Steelers were only trailing by 5 with three minutes left in the game. The Browns attempted to run the clock out and were unsuccessful. The Steelers scored a touchdown plus a two-point conversion in the waning moments of the game and the Browns ran out of time trying to move down the field to set up for a field goal. Like always, it was heartbreaking.
However, at the time, I didn’t realize that would be the last time I would see the Browns in the postseason.
They came close in 2007. Derek Anderson took over the team following the team trading away Charlie Frye to the Seattle Seahawks and finished the season at 10-6. It was the greatest Browns’ season I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Yet, the Tennessee Titans got in the playoffs over the Browns on a tie-breaker.
The potential is there. They are long overdue for a playoff appearance. The Cavs have made it and so have the Tribe. Why not the Browns?
3) Joe Thomas deserves it
Offensive Tackle Joe Thomas is one of the most honest, loyal, nice and humorous human beings and the best draft pick/offensive lineman the Browns have had since their reinstatement into the league.
Joe Thomas has been a Pro-Bowl selection each year since he has entered the league (10). He has been selected as a first team All-Pro player seven times and a second team All-Pro player twice. That unbelievable talent has anchored the Browns’ offensive line for over a decade—even when the rest of the line was sub-par.
Nobody deserves or desires to see the playoffs more than Joe Thomas. But his time is running out. He has been lucky enough to avoid serious injury and he has played in—and started—every game of his professional career. However, at 32 years old, he is getting up there in age for a lineman. Most linemen’s knees tend to give out after years at the position and realistically Thomas only has about three years of playing time left.
Thomas is loyal and loves where he is at so I don’t see him leaving just to get to the playoffs. But it has to be frustrating to a player who has given so much of his performance, time, body and life to an organization that can’t deliver the one thing every player wants to see—playoff appearances.
I believe that good things happen to good people. It stands to reason that Thomas will play in a playoff game before he retires. When that happens, it is a certainty that Thomas will be ready to perform better than he ever has before. Thomas’ will and desire to see the playoffs and his dedication to his team will pay off. Maybe even this year.
Reasons Why the Browns Will NOT Make the Playoffs
1) Um, it’s the Browns
Does this even take three reasons? It actually takes more reasons because there are too many issues to list in just one article. But simply put: The Browns won’t make the playoffs because…well, they’re the Cleveland Browns after all.
2) Who is the Quarterback?
There is an ongoing song online referencing the Browns never-ending and ever-expanding list of starting quarterbacks. Since 1999, the Browns have had 26 different starting quarterbacks. 26 quarterbacks in 17 years. Additionally, Tim Couch is the only Cleveland Quarterback to start all 16 games for the team in a season. These numbers are difficult to wrap one’s mind around.
Furthermore, they went through three starting quarterbacks last year and cut Robert Griffin III after just one season with the team. But that is a conversation for another day.
The Browns drafted DeShone Kizer,of Notre Dame, in this year’s draft, to join Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, both drafted in 2016, as the team’s young quarterbacks. The Browns also traded to get Brock Osweiler in the offseason.
It’s too early to say who will be the Browns’ starting quarterback when the season rolls around. If they are smart, they will go with Kessler who did fairly well in his first season. Kessler started 8 games out of the 9 he played. In that span, he completed 65.6% of his passes (128-195), throwing for 1,380 yards with a 6-2 touchdown-interception ratio. But, the Browns don’t always do what makes the most sense and injuries tend to deflate the team each year.
It is possible that Osweiler, having five years of experience—the most of the Browns quarterbacks—could get the start. It’s also possible they could throw Kizer to the wolves and expect yet another rookie quarterback to “turn the team around” immediately. Or, the Browns could end up trading for a different quarterback after injuries sidelines the ones they have now. Either way, not having a staple at the quarterback position will always be a hindrance to the team’s playoff chances.
3) Inevitable injuries (Again, it’s the Browns)
The quarterback weaknesses lead into the final reason the Browns won’t make the playoffs, which is the inevitable injuries of key players.
While only three different quarterbacks started for the team last year, seven played at the position in at least one game and all four of the quarterbacks on their roster were injured by Week 5. RGIII was injured in the first game of the year and Josh McCown got injured in Week 2. The team then signed Charlie Whitehurst to backup Kessler. Kessler got injured in Week 5 and Whitehurst did as well as the offensive reigns had to be handed over to wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who played quarterback at Ohio State in college. The team released Whitehurst after his injury and promoted Hogan from the practice squad after that. Six different quarterbacks playing in a year was just about the worst quarterback injury luck of all time. But that’s just the beginning.
According to profootballreference.com, Browns’ players were reported as questionable 21 times, officially out 21 times, and on the injury reserve 161 times last season. Furthermore, in 2015, players were reported as questionable 64 times, officially out 38 times, and on the injury reserve 133 times, according to the site.
While some injuries happen to players who don’t greatly impact the team, more often than not, it is key players or talent young players such as Corey Coleman, Carl Nassib, Joel Bitonio, Nile Lawrence-Stample, or Jordan Poyer just to name a few.
And the bad luck has already started in Cleveland.
2017 #1 draft pick Myles Garrett reportedly injured his foot on the second to last day of rookie camp earlier this month. He is expected to recover by training camp which starts the end of July, but for a player as highly touted as Garrett to get injured before true practice even starts, it isn’t the best omen.
Chances are, there will be more unnerving injuries to come and it will probably happen to the players the team needs the most. It’s hard to perform well and reach the playoffs, when the most talented players are on the sidelines.