Greetings Browns fans! My name is Steve in RI and I am a contributor over at Arrowhead Pride. I have been thinking about this piece for a while and decided today would be a nice day to do it.
First off, allow me to establish some background: I am a lifelong New Englander who as a youth liked the Browns very much, but as the 80's moved on I drifted and eventually became a Kansas City Chiefs fan. I come here in peace and I come here to offer one man's viewpoint on how this season could have been worse. Worse you say? Worse.
At the beginning of the season, the Browns were a trendy pick by outsiders to challenge for a playoff spot based on their schedule and the coming together of a talented young group. Some could say that an opening day win over the Bengals may have changed the course of the season (PS. thanks for killing every survivor pool of mine in Week 1). I am here to say that the main reason this season could have been worse for you is because you COULD have won more games and COULD have made the playoffs. How on earth is that bad? Allow me to explain my experiences.
In 2009, the Chiefs and Browns both inherited new coaches, Haley and Mangini respectively. For now, let me focus on the Chiefs. A woeful 2009 campaign led the Chiefs to a 4-12 record, a last-place schedule, and the luxury of playing the NFC West in 2010. The result of that was a 10-6 season, an AFC West title and success far ahead of schedule.
Unfortunately, that success was parlayed into completely unrealistic expectations for this year's Chiefs team. The truth of the matter is that 2010 was largely scheduling and luck, as well as being injury-free all season. Despite still being in rebuilding mode, fans of the Chiefs felt we were "back" and ready to compete with the best. In reality, we were still several pieces away, especially depth-wise, and that was evident all season as star after star fell to injury for the Chiefs. We clearly were victims of our "untimely" success. But with a last place schedule again for 2012, as well as the return of our injured players, and one more draft under our belts, we may be poised to make sustained progress.
What does that have to do with your beloved Browns? Plenty. This schedule was so easy for you this year (save the unexpected 49ers success) that you really could have replicated what the Chiefs did in 2010. I know, you did win one less game though than last year and you should be disappointed with that. But by not winning "too soon" with some of the young talent you have, the expectations of the fan base are still in check. You still get to play a manageable schedule next season and your team has another year of solid experience under it's belt. Your decision makers are respected throughout the league and this draft may bring you the missing pieces you need to be back as perennial contenders like you once were (albeit a while ago).
I realize this may seem idiotic to some, but having lived through a similar situation I am telling you that you are lucky. You aren't ready for the playoffs this year, and what would a #23 pick in the draft have done for your emerging team? I am telling you as a fan of another once-proud, frustrated fan base that this season was a blessing for you. I don't know if Coach Shurmur is the right coach, that I cannot help with. But you are quickly piecing together two sides of the ball that teams will NOT want to play against. By picking in the Top 5 you have endless options and I hope they help you continue to improve.
That is my little story and I'm sticking to it. You had to suffer again this year like you have so many times (at least you didn't have Tyler Palko), but as an objective outsider I see so many similarities between where both of our teams are headed. And we both are headed in the right direction. Keep the faith as always Dawgs because it could be worse. You could be in the playoffs right now.
Hope you enjoyed and come visit us at Arrowhead Pride anytime!