Needless to say, the 2022 version of the Cleveland Browns has been disappointing.
Though we are not attempting to generate any false hopes here, the facts remain that if Cleveland can right this ship beginning with a win over the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8, there are numbers that verbalize the Browns can still earn a post-season bid.
Even though this year’s roster has its share of issues, Cleveland lost to some very good teams by mere points as evidenced by losing by two to the Los Angeles Chargers and three to Baltimore. This means that the Browns can stay with the better teams, just can’t find a way to finish.
And remember, in Week 13 they get a huge boost when Deshaun Watson begins his tenure as the starting quarterback. The three-time Pro Bowler should be ready to heat up this stagnant offense and provide a thrust going down the stretch.
Since the merger with the American Football League in 1970, there have been 322 clubs that began their season 2-5. Since 1990, 144 teams have started 2-5. Of the latter, only eight have made the playoffs.
What that means for Browns fans is that there is evidence that a slow start doesn’t have to terminate at “wait till next year.”
Here’s that list:
1995 Detroit Lions
The 1990s in Detroit were ruled by RB Barry Sanders and his weekly highlight reel. The year before he had gained 1,883 yards but had a slow start in 1995. The Lions lost their first three before gaining wins over San Francisco and Cleveland. Then they lost two more for a 2-5 record.
But QB Scott Mitchell began feeding WRs Herman Moore and Brett Perriman while Sanders found his groove once again with his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl nod as Detroit won eight of their final nine games including four contests against eventual playoff squads. Moore broke the NFL’s reception record with 123 catches. The Lions then lost 58-37 in the Wild Card game.
2002 New York Jets
New York looked absolutely horrid at the beginning of 2002 losing by scores of 28-3, 44-7, and 30-3 despite winning their opener. But QB Chad Pennington took over for Vinny Testaverde and the Jets only lost two more games. Fueled by WRs Laveranues Coles and Santana Moss, they won their division then walloped QB Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 41-0 in the Wild Card stage before losing to Oakland the following week.
2011 Denver Broncos
This club was the “Tim Tebow Magical Mystery Tour” as the first-round QB led numerous exciting comebacks. The Broncos began 1-1 and then lost three of four. They would finish 8-8 which was good enough to win the AFC West. By capturing their division, they qualified to host an AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the very first play in overtime, Tebow hit WR Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown reception. The next week New England ran all over them 45-10.
2015 Houston Texans
The Texans were HBO’s choice for the hit show “Hard Knocks” but started 1-4 with every loss a close defeat. After their 2-5 start, they won seven of their last nine games and captured the AFC South Division led by third-string QB Brandon Weeden. Houston was then pummeled 30-0 by the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card round.
2015 Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs lost stud running back Jamaal Charles during their 2-5 span. Playing under QB Alex Smith, they won their final nine games with a stingy defense and finished 11-5-0. In the Wild Card round, they demolished Houston 30-0 before losing a hard-fought 27-20 game in the AFC Divisional Playoffs to New England in 38-degree weather.
2018 Indianapolis Colts
Jacoby Brissett finished out his first year as the starting quarterback for the Colts which began 1-1 before losing their next five games. Then they won eight of their next 10 games to earn a Wild Card playoff berth just one game behind division leader Houston. The receivers were T.Y. Hilton and Dontrelle Inman. Indy then beat Houston 21-7 in the Wild Card round before bowing out against the Chiefs 31-12 in the AFC Divisional round.
2020 Washington Football Team
This marked the first season the franchise dropped the “Redskins” moniker. Washington had gone 3-13-0 the year before and began this season 2-5 with several losses by wide margins. After two more losses, they won five of seven games to finish 7-9-0 and tie for first place in the lowly NFC East. This allowed them to host a playoff game in the Wild Card round which they lost 31-23 over eventual Super Bowl champs Tampa Bay.
2021 Philadelphia Eagles
At season’s end, the Eagles found that a 9-8-0 record was good enough to capture a Wild Card slot. They began with an impressive 32-6 win over Atlanta, but then lost four of their next five games to find themselves at 2-5. They did win five of their last seven games. This year the NFL opened up a seventh playoff spot to which the Eagles were able to secure the final seventh seed. Their elation was short as they were buried 31-15 in the Wild Card round to Tampa Bay.
Like these other clubs, the Browns are 2-5, so is it unlikely they’ll be able to turn their season around enough to be a playoff team? You just read the proof that they can.
The answer to that question begins next week in Prime Time on Monday Night Football before a national audience against Cincinnati. And before you know it, Watson will be under center.
But if the Browns were to somehow finish at least with seven wins in their remaining games to end up at 10-7-0 or 9-8-0, if they did make the playoffs, it wouldn’t be unprecedented.
Other teams offer hope of NFL relevance still ahead — the 2010 Chargers went from 2-5 to 9-7 and still missed the playoffs. Two other teams made it back to 8-8 and fell short.
Most clubs that begin 2-5 do not make the playoffs and in fact, don’t even break the .500 mark.
And even with the issues, the Browns have experienced so far this year, they have the full array of possibilities in their remaining games.
But the time to make a move toward the post-season is now. Regardless, it’s all been done before.