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Realistic Expectations For The Cleveland Browns in 2018 - Ez Likes Sunday Morning 9/9/18

We’re better. How much so, remains to be seen

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions
When it’s all said and done, it’s going to come down to one guy
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Other than day one of the draft, opening day of the NFL regular reason is the most like Christmas morning an adult Cleveland Browns fan is likely to experience. At this point, anything is possible. Everybody’s even (except, very literally the Eagles and Falcons) and all the dreams are in play. We haven’t screwed anything up yet, basically, and so today we bask in that particular glory as we try to get a rivalry started up against the nonetheless (and justifiably) hated Pittsburgh Steelers at FOSFEF.

Well, maybe. there’s some gnarly weather in the forecast which has caused some doubt as to whether the weather will prevent our regularly scheduled 1pm kickoff. As of now though, all is on, so weather or not we plunge headlong into the 2018 version of Browns’ football, full of hope and optimism for a better outcome then, well, we seem to ever get.

Although, if history has anything to say about it, we are probably in for a long afternoon. The Browns haven’t won an opening day contest since we trounced the Baltimore Ravens 24-3 to open the 2004 campaign. Prior to that, it hadn’t happened since 1994. We just don’t do well on opening days, and it just doesn’t matter who or where we are playing. As it happens, losing to the Steelers at home has almost become it’s own tradition, as we always seem to bookend the season with those tools.

However that’s exactly the point of this season! This is to be the year we quash all that negativity and get this thing turnt around. That is what the prevailing expectations seem to be, and certainly, after going through 0-16, 1-31, and 4-49, we are due for some good times.

The problem is, unfortunately, that even though we have (on paper anyway) fairly substantially improved the roster from last season to this one, we are probably still set for some turbulence before the way comes clear. I wish I were more optimistic and possessed of as much HYPE as are my DBN hermanos, but I just am not. I absolutely expect us to be better, but of course the baseline for that is quite literally the worst stretch of “professional” football the world has ever seen. So yeah, we BETTER be improved, because - well I was about to say that it can’t possibly get any worse but I know better.

Why do I feel this way? I’d say there are two primary driving forces and neither is just our incomprehensibly consistent bad luck. The first is the continued lack of continuity that seems to be a tradition for us in this epoch of futility. For those of you who are new here we’ve been rather prolific in hiring and then subsequently firing people every other year going back a decade. This last iteration was a bit unique though, as we fired the functional GM (former Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown) and hired John Dorsey to replace him, but then didn’t fire Head Coach Hue Jackson.

The significance of not firing Hue is substantial: it’s the first time a head coach of ours has reached a third year with the team since Romeo Crennel patrolled the sidelines back in 2007 (not uncoincidentally, our last winning season). So there will be, and this is a pretty big deal: SOME semblance of consistency with respect to how we coach and prepare the team. Starting over every other year has been brutal, which is probably why nobody else does it.

That’s the good news (and well actually, maybe not). The downside is that, while it looks to have been largely improvements, we’ve nevertheless flipped a whopping thirty-three roster spots in a single offseason. Thus, even if the coaches have finally gotten the chance to refine what they do, they are still teaching it to guys for the first time in most cases.

There is no way to spin this and it doesn’t matter the reason why - that is a lot of turnover. That’s not typically what winning teams do. It IS somewhat typical of what we do, which is why while things (again, on paper) look to be on the upswing, we probably shouldn’t be surprised if there are still growing pains from the fact that so many of these guys are playing together for the first time. This is likely to be exposed particularly whenever we take on teams with more established systems, such as everyone in our division.

Now some of this could be mitigated or even used to our advantage, especially if the talent is there (which I think it is on our case) IF there are quality enough coaches on the team to smooth out the transitions. This is the point at which we should all coldly assess the situation and maybe temper whatever jubilation we are feeling for opening day ‘18.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns
Coaching for his life
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t have any kind of animus towards Hue Jackson for the role he played in ousting Sashi Brown, because I think I have a good idea of the way in which our (wildly dysfunctional) organization is structured and realize that he probably needed to behave that way merely to survive. That said, the idea that we have won a single game over the last two years being solely a function of a terrible roster doesn’t stand up to any kind of serious scrutiny. Chris Palmer won five games with WAY less, for example, and if you’ve watched these games these last two years, it’s impossible to miss some fairly egregious and jaw-dropping coaching incompetence.

At least, on the surface. I’m happy to grant Jackson the benefit of the doubt that he was trying to develop some 20-30 guys, and that’s a daunting task to go along with trying to manage the games. There’s also the very real possibility we simply tanked the last two seasons, in which case almost nothing that he did can be taken under serious consideration, and we’ll just have to wait and see. I find the former to be credible but insufficient, and the latter to be dubious, but I want to be fair in making this assessment.

If the Browns are going to make a substantial turnaround in 2018, it means that a full 62% roster turnover was effectively and successfully managed by Jackson and his coaches. I’m not saying impossible, but definitely a bit much considering the track record. We won’t be going 0-16 and probably not 1-15 either, but some of the prognostications of a drastic turnaround probably need to pump the breaks a bit. We’ll be better, but it may still be a while before we are good.


How Wrong Am I?

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  • 14%
    The most, as usual
    (59 votes)
  • 28%
    Oceans of wrong, but there is an Island or two of correctness there
    (117 votes)
  • 56%
    Ehh, you’re taxiing down the runway of a point here.
    (231 votes)
407 votes total Vote Now