If you are a new or young Cleveland Browns fan, chances are you are curled up in the fetal position somewhere bawling your little eyes out over your team’s 0-11 season. For those more seasoned fans of the Dawg Pound brigade (or GPODAWUND, however you may spell it), it is likely this season hasn’t surprised you in the least and you have already chalked this year up to the Browns’ “bad luck”. Whether you are used to this heartbreak or having trouble adjusting to it, I understand how you feel and am here to help.
Since Thanksgiving is coming up this week, it got me thinking about all the things that I have to be thankful for. Applying that to sports, I realized that there is actually quite a bit for Browns’ fans to be appreciative of. I realized that while the Browns’ season is quickly deteriorating in front of fans’ eyes, there are actually plenty of positives to take away from this season.
Guaranteed #1 Draft Pick
Woo hoo! Cleveland is going to be so set for next year. One of the perks of having a bad record (and this year the worst record in the league) is that the other teams feel so bad for you that they let all the worst teams pick first. They metaphorically throw a dog a bone just to give them a boost for the following year and no dawg has had more bones tossed his way than the Cleveland Browns.
Having the first pick of the draft is so nice because they literally can pick the best college player at whatever position they need. I sure hope they pick another quarterback to build their team around! That will make all the difference. Regardless of how you feel, I’m sure that management will NOT squander this draft pick. That would just be insane. What are the chances?
It must be noted that not all of their draft picks have been bad. The 1st round picks from 2015-2016 have done fairly well for the Browns actually. Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving have proved valuable players and Corey Coleman will only continue to get better with playing time.
On the other hand, the fans’ worry regarding the draft doesn’t always have to do with the picks, but with the management of those players. In an article from September, Lindsey Foltin discussed how the Browns currently have zero of their first-round draft picks from the years 2011-2014 (source: www.foxsports.com). The 2014 picks were with the team until this year, when Justin Gilbert was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. And everybody knows about the off-field decline of Johnny Manziel which resulted in his release from the team. But then again, Johnny Football is the last Cleveland quarterback to win a football game so I guess he wasn’t that bad.
Regardless of what has happened in the past, I am positively certain that the Browns will make an exquisite pick in 2017. Fans, get your popcorn ready because this upcoming pick is going to change everything. For real this time.
If you watched the home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday you would have seen the numerous vacant seats available in FirstEnergy Stadium. As the Browns continue to lose, those vacancies are only going to increase. With three home games left, if you are looking to watch your favorite team play, there will be plenty of tickets available. You may even be able to get fairly good seats after you move closer to the action once you realize that nobody else is coming to sit in your section. Or, you can stay at home, save your money, and watch them lose on television. Whatever floats your boat. Either way, it’s a plus.
If you are a compulsive gambler or just looking to win some quick money, you can always put money on the Browns to lose. The other team will very likely cover the spread against Cleveland. I mean how can a team NOT cover the spread against Cleveland. The Browns might impress you and have you worried in the first half of the game, but the other team will surely pull through in the second half when Cleveland inevitably decides to shut down for the day. In fact, according to teamrankings.com, the Browns are 12th in the league in first half scoring, averaging 12.4 points. But in second half scoring, they are dead last, averaging just 5.1 points. Moral of the story: Don’t fret and place that bet! The payout may not be much, but some money is better than no money, right?
Enjoy Your Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is a day for reflecting on everything that you are grateful for. It is a day to connect with friends and family, stuff your face, and watch football between beers and naps. One thing I am certainly grateful for is being able to watch some good football on Thanksgiving Day. The Minnesota Vikings take on the Detroit Lions with both teams sitting at 6-4 and the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys per usual which is sure to be a fun game to watch. The Steelers and Colts are both .500, but that game is likely to be entertaining with each team having promising wins and ugly losses. There’s even some college action going on as #16 LSU takes on #25 Texas A&M in what is sure to be a great game.
What’s my point you may ask? My point is that whether you want to or not you are going to be forced to watch football on this upcoming Thursday. The good thing about that is that you get a Thursday with multiple football games that are likely to be competitive throughout. Be grateful for the fact that you will get to watch some entertaining games. While some may wish Cleveland would play a game on Thanksgiving Day for a change, I assure you that they will play just as well on the weekend. You can happily wait for Sunday when watching the Browns will be much easier to endure while recovering from that three-day Thanksgiving turkey hangover.
A Win is…Still Possible
With five games left, it is still possible that the Browns can pull out a win. And guess what? Even if they win one game they will still get the first draft pick. Heck, they could somehow win out and still have a top three pick. This week they take on the 7-3 New York Giants before finally heading into their bye week. They then finish off the season against the Bengals, Bills, Chargers, and Steelers, who have a combined record of 17-24-1. It can be done! The Bills and the Steelers are each .500 and the Chargers are a better team than their 4-6 record shows. The best chance for the Browns to win a game will come December 11th when they play the 3-6-1 Bengals at home. If they want to win a game, this is the game they need to show up to and play a complete game. Then again, the Browns lost to Cincinnati 31-17 earlier in the season. So fans will just have to wait and see how that one turns out. If they can’t finish the season with a win, fans can rest easy knowing that the Browns will join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only two teams to go 0-16. At least they will finally be in the record books!
On a Serious Note…
If you haven’t noticed yet, I have been a little bit bitter and a tad sarcastic throughout most of this article. As all Browns’ fans know, this is a result of…well, being a lifelong Browns fan. But I would like to end this piece on a serious note. While Cleveland has struggled to win a single game this year there is actually real hope for the future. The youth of the team is actually promising.
Terrelle Pryor, who did not even make it on the depth chart last year, is now a leader among the receivers and shows no signs of slowing down his improvement and production. The offense has shown they have the ability to put together meaningful drives. Every quarterback that the Browns have used this year has shown glimmers of hope that they aren’t that bad after all. Each one has shown that they have the ability to move the ball down the field and convert drives into points. The consistency is what is lacking.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has had its moments where they have been able to stop good teams when they’ve needed to. Carl Nassib was shaping up to be an effective pass rusher before getting injured and Christian Kirksey, Derrick Kindred, and Demario Davis have continued to pile up tackles for the team.
Ultimately, the problem lies in the inability to put together a complete game.
Keys for Improving
Finally, patient reader, I’ll leave you with what I believe are the keys to improving in a final plea to management.
Dear Cleveland Browns’ Management:
- For the love of all that is good in this world, do not waste your pick on another quarterback. If you haven’t been able to tell from the countless injuries and going through 6 or 7 quarterbacks this year, what the team really needs is to revamp their offensive line. I would also be okay with reinforcing the defense with some more players that are able to make key drive-stopping plays. The defense has not been as good as it should be so adding some more defensive lineman and defensive backs should help improve this side of the ball. They have many young and inexperienced lineman on the offense, but this is one area where I believe it is okay to continuously add to. More competition will lead to players working harder and more game experience will continue to bring improvement across the offensive line. Isaiah Crowell has proven he can be an efficient NFL running back and the young receivers are only going to continue to get better. RGIII showed in the preseason and the first game of the year that he still has what it takes to throw the ball effectively. The key is that he HAS to stay healthy. How does he stay healthy? By not having an offensive line easier to break through than a paper bag would be a nice start.
- Do not get rid of Hue Jackson. While I haven’t read anything yet that suggests you will, the Browns have had a tendency to fire coaches without giving them enough time to progress. Since 1999, the Browns have had nine different head coaches and out of those nine, only Butch Davis and Romeo Crennel coached longer than two seasons. To my way of thinking, every coach should get three years at the least to show improvement. Management can’t expect a miracle to happen when players are constantly learning a new system every year or two. The players respect Jackson and I believe if he is given time and the players that he wants, he will be able to use his system effectively, improve the team drastically, and ultimately, show real progress. The key is to give him time.
- Finally, management needs to continually work with Jackson to give him what he wants. You need to be willing to spend money on the players he thinks are critical to his scheme and you need to let him have a large influence on who the team drafts. The Browns have let so many decent draft picks go because they either underestimated their value or were unwilling to give out the cash they desired. While I don’t want to discuss hypotheticals, I can only imagine how much better the offensive line would be with the veteran leadership of not only Joe Thomas, but also Alex Mack to help teach the young guys. I also can’t help but wonder how much more threatening the defense would be if the team still had Gilbert, Phil Taylor, and Barkevious Mingo.
In summary, while the immediate future looks grim, there is still a chance for something great to happen in 2017. I know as a Cleveland fan that is all you really wanted to hear. It is a defense mechanism of mourning and Browns’ fans know it all too well. But sometimes it’s better to believe in a gentle lie than a blatant truth. After all, a nice dish of false hope is what the fan base is in dire need of at this point. But take my word: it will be better tomorrow because it can’t possibly be worse today.
Next year, Cleveland will definitely win at least a game.