Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns just can’t win with some fans

“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vince Lombardi

After watching the Browns for more years than we care to admit, we know all about the habit of losing that surrounds the franchise.

And in some ways this year is no different as, even after Sunday’s win against Jacksonville, the Browns still sit at just 4-6 on the season.

But there is a subset of fans who have decided that, even when the Browns win, that the team are losers, Pat Shurmur isn’t qualified to coach a junior high JV team and every decision Mike Holmgren makes is wrong.

What we don’t understand is why? What did people realistically expect out of this team this year? A division title? A playoff game?

The Browns entered the season off of consecutive 5-11 seasons (and the year before that they were just 4-12) with holes to fill and questions to answer all over the team.

So far, the team is what they should be – they lose to teams that are better than them, and beat, or at least are competitive, against teams of equal talent.

Should that really be a surprise?

The angst has reached such a low that some are longing for the days of Eric Mangini and his 10-22 record (33-47 career mark). The common refrain is that under Mangini the Browns were “competitive.”

But was that really the case?

In their six losses this year, the Browns have lost by an average of 10.6 points. Last year in the 11 losses, the margin was 9.2. In 2009 it was a ridiculous 15.2. Is that really a regression for the current team?

People moan about the offense, as if the Browns were the reincarnation of Air Coryell under former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. But after finishing 32nd (2009) and 29th (2010) the past two years, the Browns currently sit at 29th overall. The passing game is 23rd (after being 32nd and 29th). Only the running game – hit hard by injuries – has dropped, from 20th last year to 29th this year.

But that hasn’t really impacted scoring. Even with all their troubles getting into the end zone this year, the Browns are right in line, averaging 14.5 points per game this year, compared to 15.3 in ’09 and 16.9 in ’10. Add in a couple of Phil Dawson field goals and the Browns would be right where they have been the past few seasons.

There’s no question the defense is better, ranking 5th overall and 1st against the pass. For someone who was sold as a defensive genius, the Browns finished 31st and 22nd overall in defense under Mangini, and never higher than 18th against the pass. The one constant has been the Browns inability to stop the run, no matter who the coach is.

It’s expected the defense should be improved, however, as the Browns have focused on defense in the last two drafts. But by saying that, isn’t that a sign of progress?

The bottom line in all this is the Browns are still not a good team. After four years of Phil Savage and his “talent evaluation” plus the infamous 2009 draft by Mangini – where the Browns had four of the first 52 picks and somehow only walked out with one NFL-caliber player and a No. 3/4 wide receiver – left this team in a serious hole.

But more importantly, this isn’t a finished team.

This team is still playing catch-up after not having a normal off-season of OTAs, mini-camps and training camp that would have provided a young quarterback and wide receivers about 1,000 snaps of practice.

Through 10 games of the season so far, the Browns have had 653 snaps on offense, so you don’t think those 1,000 snaps would have helped? The simple fact is there’s no replacing that missed time that the team desperately needed.

General manager Tom Heckert has done a nice job in his first two drafts, and with two first round picks next year and multiple picks in later rounds, the team should keep adding young talent.

Judging from the past two weeks, Shurmur may have figured out what Colt McCoy does best and started fitting the game plan around those skills (we would have liked to seen that sooner, but as Mick Jagger once said, you can’t always get what you want).

The franchise is finally going about things the correct way, something fans have been waiting for for we don’t know how long, but people still want to piss and moan and take a micro-view of the team. There’s no guarantee that things are going to work out, but the important part is the Browns are doing it the correct way.

We don’t get to see wins around here very often, let’s just try and enjoy them when we do.

(Photo by Cleveland

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