Those poor Cleveland Browns fans. They're some of the most loyal and fervent football fans in the NFL, and yet they're stuck, at the moment, with a stinker of a team.
What's wrong with this outfit? Why do they have to keep changing coaches and quarterbacks? Anybody around there ever heard of the concept of continuity?
A few years ago Cleveland hired Mike Holmgren, but not to coach. Does that make sense? That's the kind of decision Browns management has been making in recent years.
In the fourth season after their re-birth back in 2002 the Browns made the playoffs. They had a hot young coach, a hot young quarterback and supposedly a bright future.
Uhh, not so fast, dawg.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out for Butch Davis and Tim Couch; they're both long out of the league, and Cleveland, after going 4-12 last year, has now posted eight losing seasons out of its last nine.
What a time to be a Browns fan.
2011 Cleveland Browns Season in Review
Cleveland, in its first season under new Head Coach Pat Shurmur and with Colt McCoy at quarterback, started 3-3 last year. Then reality set in and the Browns lost nine of their last 10, including their last six straight, to finish at 4-12.
Cleveland lost by one point to the Rams, three points to the Bengals, by three at Arizona and by four vs. the Steelers, and a couple other defeats were close games into the fourth quarter. But the Brownies just couldn't get enough help from the offense, which was held to 14 points or less 10 times.
Offense? You want to talk about offense? OK, we've got a word for you: “ugly.” Or how about “inept?” “Punchless?” “Non-existent?” Whatever, it isn't pretty.
The Browns averaged 289 yards per game last year, which ranked 29th in the league. Also, with Peyton Hillis playing when he wanted to and sitting when he didn't, the Browns averaged just 98 yards per game on the ground, which ranked 28th.
Now Hillis is gone, and apparently Cleveland is going to hand over the reins to a rookie (albeit a 28-year-old rookie) starter at quarterback.
Along the line the Browns have had problems in recent seasons, but with first-round picks at center with Alex Mack and left tackle with Joe Thomas, and with the addition of second-rounder Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle this year, they could be building something good.
There's not much to be said for the receiving corps, other than it's young. It has been a bit hard to tell with this group over the last four years or so, considering the problems the team has had at quarterback.
But hope for this unit could be on the way. Cleveland might have found a real good one in the draft with No. 3 overall pick Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who's been compared to Adrian Peterson. And that's a good guy to be compared to. The Browns also took Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, who is expected to step in right away as the starter. And they nabbed speedster wide receiver Travis Benjamin in the fourth round.
Is that enough to kick this offense in gear? Well, not immediately. But how much worse can they be?
Things are a little better for Cleveland on this side of the ball, which ranked 10th overall last year, allowing 332 yards per game. But that number might be a bit misleading because they also ranked 30th vs. the run, allowing an average of 147 YPG on the ground. And why would a team throw the ball when it could just ram it down the Brownies' throats?
Last year Cleveland gave up 139 yards on the ground to the Bengals, 138 to Miami, 151 to Oakland, 174 to the Niners, an alarming 261 to the Texans and 290 to the Ravens, 147 to the Steelers, 162 to the Ravens and 161 to the Steelers. Not surprisingly, Cleveland lost all but one of those games.
For this year up front the Browns have last year's top two draft picks, defensive tackle Phillip Taylor and defensive end Jabaal Sheard, and they think they bolstered the defensive line over the offseason by signing former Bengals DE Frostee Rucker and former Eagles DE Juqua Parker. But we'll see.
At linebacker Cleveland is young, especially without outside linebacker Scott Fujita, who's suspended for the first three games of season because of that bounty thing when he played for the Saints.
Finally, the secondary, under the guidance of longtime pro Coach Dick Jauron, is young and good, one of the better groups around. The Browns held opposing quarterbacks to a 57 percent completion rate last year.
2012 Cleveland Browns Schedule Analysis
With all three of their divisional opponents making the playoffs last year, Cleveland has eight games against 2011 postseason qualifiers. They also have to deal with the Eagles, Chargers and Cowboys. The Browns get the Bills, Chiefs and Redskins at home, which are probably their most winnable games, and play at the Colts and Raiders. But after that we're hard-pressed to see many games the Browns have a chance of winning.
2012 Cleveland Browns Futures Odds
Cleveland is getting +2500 at Bovada to win the AFC North this season, 75/1 to win the AFC and 200/1 to win Super Bowl 47, while 5Dimes has pegged the Browns with a regular-season wins “over/under” of 5.5 (O +125/U -145).
5Dimes is also listing the Browns as a nine-point home dog for its season opener vs. the Eagles.
2012 Cleveland Browns Futures Predictions
Is this franchise headed in the right direction? Sure, why not. They kept their head coach, which is a start, Richardson could provide a spark, and the defense has a chance to be good. But it looks like they're changing QBs again. And again, with this year's schedule, we don't see more than six games that are even winnable Cleveland has a chance to win. So we're leaning toward the under 5.5 wins for the Browns this season.
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