Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Is the Browns victory train getting any closer to the station?

Following the completion of today’s conference championship games, we will have reached that portion of the calendar where there is only one meaningful game left before closing the books on the 2014 NFL season.

Of course, this being Cleveland, we’re already a few weeks past the final game for the Cleveland Browns and now stand roughly eight months away from the team’s next meaningful game.

We started thinking about where the Browns have been and where they are headed this past week when Cat Stevens’ Peace Train  came on the radio, with a particular lyric catching our attention:

Now I’ve been smiling lately,
thinking about the good things to come.
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun.

As those words started to sink in, we realized that despite yet another disappointing end to the season, we’re starting to feel pretty good about the direction the team is heading.

Sure, just last month we passed the 50th anniversary of the Browns’ last title, and this month marks 20 years since the Browns last won a playoff game.

But the Browns beat Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, both playoff teams this year; and were just a few plays away from beating Baltimore, another playoff team; and Indianapolis, a participant in today’s AFC Championship Game.

Sure, the Browns have holes that still need to be filled along the roster, but they have draft picks and cap space to continue to do that in the upcoming off-season.

Probably the one aspect that has us feeling better about the Browns is that for the first time in … well, quite a long time … the team is being run by a pair of adults in general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine, two people who seem more committed to building a winning team than in advancing a personal agenda.

(And it is interesting to note that, a year after the Browns hired a defensive-minded coach in Pettine, the rest of the NFL is starting to follow suit as Buffalo, Oakland, Chicago and the Jets have all turned to head coaches with a defensive mindset.)

As we continued down the road, however, the song continued and another lyric stuck in our head:

Now I’ve been crying lately,
thinking about the world as it is.
Why must we go on hating,
why can’t we live in bliss?

While being the undisputed No. 1 team in town has its benefits, it also comes with its own set of headaches. All it takes is one NFL “insider” to type away on their keyboard, or go on air with one of the town’s radio stations, and talk about how they are hearing things about the Browns, things that are apparently so bad that the details often must remain unspoken (and unsourced) lest the details drive Browns fans everywhere to madness.

Once fans hear that things are bad it becomes too easy for some to shake their heads (a popular thing to do on Twitter), wag their fingers and start clucking about the “Same Old Browns.”

Which leaves us wondering if maybe we are being too overly optimistic about the direction the franchise is heading in. What if that sound we hear is not the team’s version of the victory train coming safely down the tracks, but rather a train that has (and will continue to) run off the tracks?

To help us try to find some answers, we’ve gotten the band back together for a season-ending 5 Questions on the Browns. Joining us this week will be:

Jeff Rich, a Senior NFL Writer at More Than a Fan; co-host of Rapid React on MTAF Cleveland; and who is heard live on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at sportsbyline.com. Find him on Twitter @JRichRadio.

Jared Mueller, an editor at Dawg Pound Daily. Follow him on Twitter @JaredKMueller and @DawgPoundDaily.

Mike Burgermeister, proprietor of 603brown.com and Grand Poobah of Cheddar Bay. Follow him on Twitter @603_brown.

Ryan Alton from Draft Browns, who can be found on Twitter @RyInCBus.

Dave Kolonich, who’s been known to hang around on Twitter @DaveKolonich.

And newcomer David Zavac, a Browns season-ticket holder and editor of Fear the Sword, who can be found on Twitter @fearthesword.

Starting tomorrow we’ll spend the week looking at the offensive coordinator position, free agency, the ongoing quarterback quandary and the confidence level in the current front office — a question a day for five days.

Get your bags together,
go bring your good friends too.
Cause it’s getting nearer,
it soon will be with you.

Hopefully by the end of the week we’ll have a better idea if we’re all alone at the train station or not.

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