If the Cleveland Browns are ever going to become relevant anytime within a foreseeable future, they are going to have to commit to a plan for longer than two years. That may seem like an obvious statement but it has been frustratingly elusive for the last decade. Over that time, any semblance of respect or prestige associated with the franchise from its once lofty stature has dissipated completely into mocking dismissal of its product and open pity for its fans.
It’s been said (rather sardonically) that the only thing that’s been consistent about us is our inconsistency. In truth, we actually have been remarkably consistent in this one way. Since 2009, we have not advanced beyond the 2nd year of any head coach - and in 2013 it was but one. We decide we don’t like how the existing set up is working, and endeavor to fix that problem by bringing in new blood. In two years (or less), we don’t like the solution, and move on. Rinse, repeat.
In each instance, a credible and reasonable-sounding case can be made as to why it is time to move on from the existing group and on to the next one. It’s always justifiable. However at the same time, we continue also always to be bad. No matter how sound the reasoning is for 86’ing the current group, the next one never makes the situation any better and the trend is that we are actually getting worse.
Naturally, whenever this subject is broached the usual refrain is that all of the coaches and front office personnel we have brought in were just lousy hires, and not good at what they are supposed to be doing. This is evidenced by the tortured lists of draft busts we brought onto the team with much fanfare over this time.
A counter to this has been that it generally takes NFL players about three years time to fully develop into the types of contributors they are drafted to be. That is to say, most teams do not expect their rookies to come in and be immediate contributors, because it takes time (again, about three years) to properly acclimate to the NFL. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but it is a general rule nonetheless.
Thus, every draft class we’ve had since ‘07 has never reached it’s third season with the same coach that drafted it, meaning that at least once (and possibly twice) during this crucial three year period these players are forced to learn new systems from that which were drafted to do, and that requires its own adjustment time (which they ultimately do not get).
Add to this that front-offices and coaching staffs aren’t always (read: never) interested in continuing the development of players they didn’t draft and thus have no actual investment in, and you can see pretty easily how in a league designed for parody, how we have voluntary involved ourselves in a cycle that continues to churn out a substandard product despite drafting at the top of the order virtually every year.
But They’re Just SOOOOOO Terrible
So invariably whenever this process commences, it’s always because we’ve come to a point where it’s just not even arguable that the existing group should stay in place for one more second. By this time (always less than two years) the team should have shown
improvement MORE improvement than what they’ve shown, and we will never, ever, ever improve beyond where we are if we do not cut our losses and go with someone better. It’s a pretty easy sell too, since we are always a bad football team.
The big problem, however, is that the situation never improves. The new group never ultimately does any better than the group they are brought into replace. They usually are around just long enough to tear down what the previous regime had done while just getting started prosecuting their own vision. That vision then gets summarily discarded by the next group, and the cycle restarts.
It’s never intended to be that way, and in each instance we remind ourselves that ‘we need to exercise patience here’, but then every time we decide that it’s not worth it to continue down that path well before the pre-determined time we agreed to give, because we of course can see that it will just never work out the way it’s being done. We, who in the modern area, don’t actually have any experience witnessing how a winning club (or anything close to it) has been put together, sure know what we don’t like how the existing effort is being done.
With the exception of Rob Chudzinski, the impatience with whom was so laughably juvenile that he got all of one year to prove himself, these cycles seem to take the same trajectory each time. First, there is the introduction, where there is an acknowledgement of just how screwed up the last guys made things, and how it’s going to take time to get it right. We all get on board, and lament how dumb and short-sighted the previous group was, while steeling our resolve to ride with the new group until the job is done.
However, the resolve doesn’t stay steeled for long. After a predictably lousy first year, the fans and media start getting antsy about progress in year two. Every move that is made is viewed through the prism of pass/fail, as opposed to a continuation of a plan just implemented the previous offseason. If we don’t like the way those decisions look IMMEDIATELY after they happen, well then we start the naval-gazing about whether the group that we (just) hired are the right guys to handle this, and we don’t spend too much time deliberating on that question before determining it to be a hard “NO”, thus leading to the inevitable calls for dismissal, which are then listened to and carried out.
Is It Always Necessary To Completely Blow Things Up?
A challenge to my general aversion to this cycle is ‘we don’t necessarily HAVE to always blow things up’. Which is to say, while my description of events isn’t really in dispute, it’s that the presumption that the next group will absolutely follow this path doesn’t have to be a quid pro quo. That is, we could hire a group that builds on what we’ve done rather than tear it up and start over. While I agree this is possible, I think there are good reasons why it doesn’t (ever) happen in our case.
Namely, that the act of firing everybody from the previous regime doesn’t exactly ring out as an endorsement of their performance in the same role. A GM’s job is to build a roster. If you fire that GM and bring in someone new, are you not saying (rather forcefully) that the roster construction done to that point has been less than adequate? Was that not the entire reason for the change?
As such, why would any new GM have fealty to a process they were brought into replace/improve upon? Why would they have ANY investment in the players on the existing roster, when the presence of those players led to the termination of the guy you were just brought in to replace?
Same with coaching. Why would you find it necessary to continue doing what the previous coach was doing? That guy failed, obviously. Why also would you bother with continuing the training of those young players that were brought in when they obviously failed your predecessor and your new GM is about to replace them anyway? It’s a vicious, totally predictable and unforgivable cycle that has produced a record of 34-100 (.340) since we started employing it.
Yet, despite this one consistent thing we do leading to the horrifically consistent performance we are accustomed to, as we sit here in 2017, the band is warming up once more in singing the same tune that we need to divest ourselves either of Sashi Brown or Hue Jackson, because after all they are an embarrassing 1-21 since arriving. Of course, the team was 3-18 just before their arrival (and subsequent total dismantling of the existing roster of the time) but that doesn’t matter. The circumstances a group walks into are never really pertinent to this conversation, just that they weren’t able to turn it completely around in two years’ time.
Thus, we as fans start demanding the head of those in charge at about this time in the life-cycle of a given group. The owner then acquiesces and in two years’ time (or shorter) and we end up right back where we were, only usually worse off. We, who are often lauded for our incredible patience, often end up being the catalyst of our perpetual awfulness, precisely because we refuse to be patient.
Therefore, and to reiterate the original point here: If the Cleveland Browns are ever going to become relevant anytime within a foreseeable future, they are going to have to commit to a plan for longer than two years. The converse of this is also true; if we want to continue being the doormat of the league, the best way to do it is for us to continue this cycle. If we want ‘LOLBrowns’ to be an even more permanent thing than it is, then all we need do is continue following this blueprint.
Not halfway through the second season of this process, we are seeing the same forces array to make this very thing happen once again. I would strongly urge Mr. & Mrs. Haslam this time around to resist the urge to uproot yet another plan (that actually looks to be coming together, albeit slowly IMO) in order to “quick-fix” an almost decade-long run of futility. If not, we shouldn’t expect improvement any time
Because, if you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always got.
What Should Happen At The End Of This Season?
This poll is closed
If things don’t improve, fire Hue
If things don’t improve, fire Sashi
If things don’t improve, fire both
Stay the course, pretty much no matter what happens