As is per usual, this hasn’t exactly been a cake-walk so far for the Cleveland Browns here in 2017. Starting 0-4 isn’t the most surprising of things to have happened, though certainly there is a lot of disappointment to go around. Though really, that’s directly related to the sorts of expectations you had coming into this year. Personally, I haven’t been surprised by much, so while it hasn’t been pleasant to watch I can’t really say I’m disappointed.
However it’s certainly understandable why anyone else that loves this team would be - we flat out haven’t been good. For many, it’s well beyond the point of expecting to see some positive returns. As a fanbase, we have been VERY patient, and at some point that patience ought to be rewarded.
Then again, as I’ve pointed out previously; there’s two different “we’s” here. There’s the “we” that have watched all these drafts every year and invested hope in players that have long since busted out, often times in rapid fashion as each new regime rips apart what the previous one had only just started two years earlier. In fact it’s kind of been like that line from the song Closing Time: “Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”:
However, there is also the “we” that is the Cleveland Browns’ existing front office and coaching staff. That “we” has been at this for all of almost two years, at the beginning of which they embarked upon a very obvious and demonstrable shredding of the existing roster. As of now there are ten players (Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, Randall Telfer, Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Danny Shelton, Jamie Meder, Nate Orchard, Christian Kirksey & Ibraheim Campbell) on the active 53 man roster who were on the club prior to the arrival of Analytics. Two others are part of the team but inactive: Tank Carder (injury) and Josh Gordon (DENIED RE-ENTRY).
The vast majority of the new guys brought in to replace the (mostly not-good) veterans who were shown the door are not-polished and gaining experience on the field. Thus, it really shouldn’t be that surprising that a lot of these youngsters are out of position/otherwise making boneheaded plays as they learn how to do this at the pro level. It was a bold strategy to do it this way, and it’s going to require some G&R:
Still, others argue that we’re whistling past the graveyard by looking past egregious deficiencies in both the team’s composition and administration. Teams go from bad to good seemingly every year in this league, so why should it take us longer? We’ve had ample cap space and a multitude of high picks, why should’t we expect better performance, sooner?
I think you can objectively look at any successfully-run NFL organization and see all kinds of screw-ups with respect to drafting/roster-moves. It happens even to the good ones, so of course our guys are going to do it, at least a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that some draft picks (cough, Ricardo Louis, cough cough) aren’t going to work out. We’re going to miss on some, and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging it.
Likewise, while most problems seem to stem from so many inexperienced players at key positions, Head Coach Hue Jackson is also going to make his fair share of mistakes/bad-decisions and such. Might even cost games (or chances to hang in some) at times. Any reasonable observer can rightfully sound the warning bell when they see these things.
However, the line for me on this comes when the suggestion naturally (though certainly not universally) follows that we should probably think about replacing one or either. I think the evidence is fairly overwhelming that an approach of firing people two years (or fewer) after you’ve hired them is a dead-loser. As such, were we to follow this proscription, we can expect to continue using this most perfect of anthems from Joan Jett to describe our relationship with the Browns:
Alas, I think today we’re going to finally see something to be positive about. I’m predicting we get a win today over the New York Jets, which will at least give those in doubt some reason for pause. Even if not, there are some good reasons (for me at least) why this season, which I still predict will end with us finishing 4-12, has been enjoyable despite the less-than-stellar overall product we’re seeing on the field.
I also know that it’s really, really hard to see it (like being down 8-3 in the 4th inning) but there’s reasons to be positive. There’s some good stuff happening out there and it doesn’t even require that much squinting to see. I know it sounds kind of absurd but there’s a difference between this 0-4 team and last year’s 0-4 team. Good people can disagree but I think the areas are potentially quite important:
Rookie Quarterback DeShone Kizer
No doubt there are many that are seriously questioning DeShone Kizer’s ability to perform at the NFL level, but I personally am not among those. I’m still very encouraged by what’s been shown by the 52nd pick in last April’s draft. The physical traits were never in doubt, but he has nevertheless displayed an absolute cannon for an arm. The accuracy has been shaky at times but no one will argue that his receivers haven’t made it more difficult for him than need be.
Still, there’s other aspects of the game that are encouraging. In the first game he struggled to process and ended up getting sacked a bunch of times. In the second game it was turnovers that were supremely problematic. He’s steadily shown improvement in both areas since which seems to indicate the, I don’t know - “coachability” I guess, of the kid. He’s certainly got problems and is by no means the bona fide (and elusive) QBOTF, but it’s nice to see someone with big-league talent actually improving, if modestly, in the early going.
What’s more (to me anyway) it’s been nice to see him handle the adversity he’s faced with apparent aplomb. Other than getting in Sammy Coates’ face a bit against the Colts, he hasn’t been lashing out has his receivers (which have deserved some lashing). In what has to be an incredibly frustrating setting, the kid is hanging in there and he’s not blaming anyone for anything. He’s taking his lumps but then he’s also making some plays here and there. At very least,he’s getting great experience.
If that’s not enough, then this one’s undeniable: if he wasn’t our starting QB this gif would never have been possible:
The Offensive Line
One reason I’m excited about Kizer is because I’m excited about this offensive line. While the sack numbers and overall week 1 play made this unit look shaky initially, they’ve looked very good over the last few weeks - especially with respect to pass blocking.
Like everyone else I would prefer we be more effective with the ground game, but I see this year as really being about the development of Kizer and not much else. I’m also not terribly enamored with the play of Isaiah Crowell, who is doing the whole contract-year thing completely wrong. Whether you blame Crow or you blame the line the fact remains that the running game hasn’t been good.
Though as Joe will tell you, it’s a bit more complicated than all that. From my vantage point this is a very talented line that looks to be improving week to week. As one that recalls how badly things went the last time we tried a full-on build and gave Tim Couch some terrible offensive lines, I’m happy to see the emphasis on the line this group has placed. Because of this, Kizer won’t get killed for being a tick behind, which hopefully will lead to him speeding up, faster.
The Defensive Line
A big reason why I think we’re going to eek out our first win today is because of how well we’ve done at defending against the run all year. Not to say that there haven’t been some long gainers, for the most part they’ve been few and far between and our DL has been living in the backfield of opposing offenses when they try to run the ball. It’s been a pleasant development, and if we can get past some of our scheme problems/player deficiencies, that will start becoming important.
Of course, this has been without first overall pick Myles Garrett, who makes his regular season debut today. How much he ends up playing is unknown, and how much of an impact that should be expected can differ from person to person, but it will be good to see him out there, healthy. It’s only going to make the pass rush better, if not right away.
Last week did see a bit of an emergence from Emmanuel Ogbah. We’ve also seen flashes at times from Carl Nassib. Getting Garrett should help things open up for those guys as well, which should help our ailing secondary (which has been quite challenged, to say the least). Still, while there’s holes to fill on both sides of the ball when offseason 2018 commences, we’ve got some nice pieces in place on the DL.
This season and the last one have been very difficult to take, but it’s been made so much easier with the play of this amazing, amazing baseball team. When the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA championship (and first championship of any kind for the city of Cleveland in over fifty years) the Tribe began a run of their own that eventually led them to a World Series berth in 2016. That effort ultimately came up short (in typically gut-wrenching fashion) but it carried over into this season and has picked up steam.
Since about mid-July, Cleveland has been on a torrid run. We won over a hundred games for the first time in over twenty years, and of course had the historic 22 game winning streak, the actual (IMHO) all time MLB record. That was an incredible thing, but they were pretty great both before and after it at as well.
It was never more thrilling than it was this last week. After Trevor Bauer absolutely dominated the New York Yankees in game one Thursday night, the game Friday was the longest postseason game in club history, and one that will never be forgotten by those that love this team. After roaring back from a 8-3 deficit, the Tribe won it in the bottom of the 13th on an RBI single by Yan Gomes, who had just a magnificent overall performance. Indeed, there were heros all around, and it was among the most stressful/exhilarating sports experiences I’ve had. If you’ve never gotten into baseball, I recommend giving this terrific ballclub a look, they play game three tonight (first pitch at 7:30pm EST).
Have a great Sunday, and here’s looking for TWO wins today, one in the afternoon and one tonight!
How Are You Generally Handling This Year?
This poll is closed
It’s been rough, but I enjoy watching the development of the young guys and generally am good with where we are.
I expected more but am not totally down yet - though that could change as the season progresses
I’m pretty disappointed. Not ready to call for people’s jobs yet but really needing to see some improvement SOON
It’s a complete mess, and probably isn’t correctable. It’s probably time to clean house.