I was planning on these Sunday pieces to be little more than weekly recaps of what happened last week and a look ahead to this week’s opponent. However, as some bona fide hysteria seems to be creeping into the general health and well being of the contingency, I feel compelled to address/get out in front of the soon-to-be had conversations about blame assignment(s).
I say this because after starting the season 0-2, something that really should not have come as a surprise (or even disappointment really) to anyone paying half attention to what we have been and are doing, there nevertheless are agents of the apocalypse at play working feverishly to make happen the one thing that would guarantee that this perpetual football horrorshow we’ve been privy to this entire last bloody score will continue on in to the future in perpetuity. I’d like to fend that off if I can, if even a little.
Let’s go ahead and do the re/pre-view: the Ravens took advantage of our many bad mistakes, because they are an experienced team and we are one of the youngest ever to be assembled on an NFL field. The same thing is probably going to happen this week against the Colts. At some point that will stop happening, but it wasn’t last week and probably won’t be today - but let’s hope I’m wrong.
What is currently underway with our organization is a LONG and determined building of the franchise. Notice I didn’t say we were doing a “re-build” - no, we are building something in place of something that was never there, that doesn’t even contain the remnants of every other attempt to do it. That aspect of this is really the difference between this approach and all those previous ones prior; we scorched the Earth this time.
Often times I will get chided for adhering to a general rule with respect to grading/evaluating both drafted players and draft classes as a whole. I believe that prudence dictates that you should really withhold judgment until three full years have passed (with exceptions, of course). I say this because there are so many factors involved in whether a player fits or doesn’t, and that’s with respect to the player’s abilities AND the environment he is going into. There’s also dumb luck involved here as well so three years generally gives a full picture of that player/draft class’ expectation of contribution to the franchise.
Feel free to disagree with that - many do. However, I think most reasonable people would say that some amount of time for acclimation is necessary, and that probably the more saturation in a stable, consistent setting, the better. Everybody’s mileage varies, granted.
Since 1999, the Browns have now drafted eighteen classes. The vast majority of these, especially with respect to the 1st round picks contained within them, are pretty much universally-viewed as busts. Good people can disagree as to the scope and judgment on each, but the overwhelming reality is that most of it hasn’t worked out at all.
If you really want to depress yourself (and you’re a fan of this team so WTH) check out the actual full draft classes. It’s not nearly as fun as it sounds. Although (and this is true of the names in the pane to the right) there’s quite a few there that you scratch your head and wonder why it didn’t ultimately work out.
The popular answer whenever I’ve brought this up in the past is that they were bad and were drafted/acquired by people who were bad. That certainly is a simple explanation and if true, means we’ve just had an unbelievable string of bad luck. As is pointed out in the FOS video, it’s almost harder to be this consistently bad for as long as we have been without occasionally/accidentally being good. Outside of 2004 and 2007, the Browns haven’t had any other winning seasons since the return.
Without even addressing the veracity of the claim, the practical reality is each effort that began since this blow-up process commenced ended another process, thus relinquishing any gains which may have been made during that time. Instead, the new vision is installed and it barely gets off the ground before being replaced with another - restarting the process all over again.
For however badly we have drafted since the return in 1999, consider this: of those 18 draft classes, all but four of them (‘01, ‘02, ‘05, ‘06) had someone different coaching them than was there when they were drafted, three years later. Said differently: 14/18 of our draft classes had different HC’s by their third year. That (IMHO) has caused an insurmountable obstacle in overall development of anything resembling a team culture. How can you establish a culture when you reboot every other year?
Although in truth a culture does get established this way: a culture of losing. That’s been the only constant: losing. As such, that is the only tangible thing the (never-ending supply of) young players ever practice doing consistently - in the midst of constantly changing their scheme-assignments.
Let’s say we draft a player to do a thing, based on whoever our HC/OC/DC thinks they can do within the scheme. So we draft that player, and he starts learning to do that thing. In either one or two years, that HC/OC/DC is gone and now a new crew is in there, looking at their existing players on the roster. They may or may not decide to continue the development of that player, but except in pretty specific circumstances they are NOT going to continue training them in the manner they have been trained. It’s a new braintrust, everything is going to change.
How difficult is it, on average, for a random rookie player to make it as a quality contributor in the NFL? Taking whatever your answer to that is into consideration, how much more difficult does that become if you are learning new schemes ever other year. You see how this might cause a problem long term?
This newest iteration did not waste any time divesting themselves of pretty much everyone from the previous regime. In two year’s time they have almost completely flipped the roster, and have managed to do so using high-caliber draft picks while also acquiring future high-caliber draft picks. It’s been impressive to watch this process.
However, a necessary component to it is that the very beginning stages of it (read: right now and all of last year) we are going to be playing with a bunch of inexperienced players, and that’s going to put us at a disadvantage. Eventually, when these high-priced picks blossom and we continue to add high-caliber selections with tons and tons of cap space to re-sign the more important of those who earn a 2nd contract. Right now, it’s still pretty rough to look at.
Which is why if you are investing a huge amount of expectation in today’s game, I’d strongly encourage you to not. I’m not saying don’t be hopeful; I’m saying be careful making pronouncements like ‘...we need to see ‘X” happen or else I’m going to start getting mad’, because we’re not even close to the time to start making those judgments. For all intents and purposes, Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson have created an expansion team, only with WAY more resources and for further into the future.
We are a young, bad team that is probably not going to win very many games this year. If you are upset that we are not winners right now, it’s pointless to look at Sashi Brown/Paul DePodesta/Hue Jackson as the reasons why. THE reason why we are in the mess we are in is because we never even try to let a plan work to fruition. If the Browns lose today, and people start rattling the cages even harder about Hue/Sashi having to go, then we’ll be off and running down that road yet again.
However there really is one play here: stay the course. Just let this thing play out. If we keep trying to fix this by firing everyone, then we are going to perpetually be exactly where and as we are: doormats.
What Best Describes You?
This poll is closed
If we don’t start winning some games soon, Jimmy Haslam needs to think about cleaning house
I’m not ready to condemn the approach, but if by the end of the year we don’t see some major improvement then it’s time to move on
I’m withholding judgment at the moment
I’ll be disappointed if we don’t start picking up some W’s, but I still think we should stick with them after this year.
We don’t fire them NO. MATTER. WHAT