This morning, I woke up and decided to be skeptical. I wanted to stick all of my optimism about the Browns, or anything Cleveland, back under the pillow and take everything the outsiders tell me at face value. You see, I’m not allowed to feel good about anything, not when it comes to these Browns. When fate doesn’t intervene, we need to draw pessimistic vibes from places they don’t necessarily exist.
I have decided to reach out to a place that doesn’t yet exist, the end of the 2014 regular season, because let’s face it, it would be foolish to consider the end of this particular road extending itself into 2015, or even a minute beyond the final gun on December 28th in Baltimore.
It wouldn’t exactly come with the nostalgia of Doc Brown’s letter to Marty that sat at a Western Union office for 70 years, but it might be fun to get Shooter McGavin’s cronie to come knocking on my door at, say, 4:07 PM on that 28th day of December with the following. Hell, if he’s buying, I’d probably actually be game for some Sizzler, as the melancholy good-bye to my team for another off-season wrestles with the emotional relief that it’s once again over for another eight months.
Dear Jeff (on December 28th),
If my calculations are correct, you just watched the conclusion of yet another chapter in the annals of the Expansion Cleveland Browns, one that left fans feeling unfulfilled once again, for whatever reason. I’d also say it’s highly likely that some once-believed bizzarre scenario is playing itself out, setting the stage for the Ravens or Steelers to back themselves into the playoffs. They both missed last year, but it took a Chiefs team losing a game that was meaningless to them on a missed field goal that came with its share of controversy.
Isn’t it awful how the spite has consumed us? Is it really all we have left, because this organization has been lacking in the department of making us proud for so long? I caught myself doing it during the draft, childishly hoping that every player that’s going to earn their pay in Western PA ends up being a bust. Those jokers have played in as many playoff games as the Browns the past two season, and fell victim to a Tebow-aided one-and-done cameo the year before that; that would be something to celebrate if they weren’t still light years ahead of the Browns.
For a while, it seemed like the Browns were stuck in the starting blocks, but the agony has reached a point where I’m pretty sure they stopped being invited to the race. It’s this damn draft, the actual root of Cleveland Sports Misery, because in the NFL’s case, it’s a Browns fan’s excuse to party and be overly optimistic, but in reality it’s why the teams we love are so terrible, always and forever.
Still, I have a hard time convincing myself; this is different from the year they took Brady Quinn or Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick, just because it is. Ray Farmer is a different type of talent evaluator, so he’s done his diligence to alleviate our concerns that Johnny Football is Colt 2.0. We have to believe that Joel Bitonio isn’t another attempt to do what the previous regime was trying to do with Mitchell Schwartz on the right side fo the offensive line, though we should really be hoping for better results above all else.
Then, there’s the never-ending saga of Josh Gordon’s urine and the circumstances that made said pee a little less than pristine…allegedly. You obviously know more than I do, whether he played 16 games, 8, or 0. I am thinking he played as many snaps as I did this season, but can’t really make anything of rumors until we actually hear something official. Rumors became truth for the elite receiver last spring, and for Joe Haden at the start of the 2012 season.
Those truths equaled six games worth of lost checks for Cleveland’s versions of star players, which ultimately equaled a loss on all six occasions. For Haden, a clean track record since dictates isolated incident, and there’s $45 million in guaranteed money that proclaims he’s worthy of trust, both from the fans and his bosses in Berea. Gordon, on the other hand, might never wear the orange helmet again.
The defense is supposed to be better, but are they healthy? Are they staying out of the law’s way? Are there discussions about whether Paul Kruger is a bigger bust as a 2013 Free Agent than Barkevius Mingo was as the #6 overall pick in the 2013 draft? Has Justin Gilbert played well enough to have kept Buster Skrine on the slot receiver, and not in over his head in a place he’s not physically built to play? Look, the potential of Karlos Dansby and rookie Christian Kirksey as a tandem at inside linebacker intrigues me, but there’s a very real possibility it’s a marriage made in Hell.
I’m curious about so many things, and that’s why I watch, though 5.5 seems to be easy money if anyone will still take your action on the under, if we’re talking about total wins. I’m anxious to see how well Brian Hoyer plays, coming back from the ACL in jury. I’m also curious if it’s going to matter, with all of #2 jerseys in the crowd and a fan-base that’s going to insist (as if they have that authority) on seeing Mr. Excitement–pardon me, Mr. Football–play right away. When will we see him? Remember, it was an essentially meaningless Week 17 game against the 49ers in 2007 that we first saw Brady Quinn take the field, despite similar pleas to then-head coach Romeo Crennel.
I’m more interested in how empty I’m going to feel at that moment, the one where the season ends and I’m taking it much worse than my father and my wife. They approach me with more caution when I’m more likely to reach my boiling point; to their credit, they do a pretty good measuring that sort of thing. Seriously though, it’s probably a good way to tell how many games they’ve won. If it’s six, I’m not doing back-flips or thinking Super Bowl for the next year, but maybe I can smile for a few minutes and just take in the best season they’ve offered us in seven years.
Did they win the opener, for just the second time in sixteen years, and the first time on the road in their expansion history? That gets them part of the way to a place I’ve been hoping they can get to eventually, a place where they beat every division opponent at least once; it’s something they’ve never been able to do in their expansion history.
I don’t want to assume they dropped the opener in Pittsburgh, but I can easily see that coming. I just don’t need that feeling of emptiness to hit me that soon, but what I need and what the NFL offers me are two entirely different things. Someday, they’ll avoid being swept by one of the division rivals, but between the Steelers and Bengals, one of them will take both games against Cleveland.
Working with only the limited information I currently have, I don’t have any reason to be thrilled with anything Browns-related right now. On May 15th, I have to seriously entertain the possiblity that Earl Bennett might be the best option Hoyer and Manziel have to throw to in 2014. I have keep the possibility of a Jimmy Haslam indictment being a major distraction, and give weight to the idea that Mike Pettine is no more qualified to be a head coach in this league than Pat Shurmur.
I really hope I’m wrong. I hope someone throws this in my face as we’re getting ready to watch the playoffs. If it’s printed out on tasty paper stock, I might even volunteer to eat this rubbish, but history is certainly on the side of these words staying out of my stomach.
I suppose I’ve been rambling on, when everything I’ve said could have been addressed with a single question. The win total, will it be 5 or 6?
Jeff Rich (May 15th, 2014)
There are some things to consider, mostly the schedule, in trying to figure out where the wins are going to come. They should be good enough to beat Baltimore at least once, and I think they get at least one of the other four in the division, so if they need four or five wins to come from the other ten games, where are those games?
I mean, they couldn’t lose to Jacksonville two years in a row, even with the game at Jacksonville, right? You never actually know, but you have to imagine an improved team, as the Browns allegedly are, not being expected to win that one. Oakland and Tampa Bay at home both sound promising, but there are factors at play, like how quickly Lovie Smith can turn things around on Florida’s west coast.
Houston and their new tandem of Jadaveon Clowney and JJ Watt come to town, and we don’t know what their quarterback plan is just yet. Atlanta and Buffalo both host the Browns in late-November, and each will feature an offense with a playmaker at receiver, they have these play-makers because the Browns traded away Top 10 picks to enable these 2014 opponents to select them. This point becomes more relevant when you consider what the Browns have put out there in recent years and what they think they’re putting out there in 2014, given how Plan A is really up in the air right now.
It’s easy to be skeptical about this, about them, but it ends up being so much more fun to believe. To think that, maybe just once, everything could bounce the right way for us, for our teams, is a better approach to all of this. To think of how little it has mattered whether or not players have done the right thing, it makes it a little easier to keep a clean conscious while I sincerely hope Gordon beats the system, even if it comes across slimy, like I think a lot of people see Ryan Braun’s victory by technicality. Once could look at the cases of Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger and easily laugh off dirty urine.
However, I’m not laughing at anything, with it being so hard to muster up joy for such an act in this context; it’s the real world, where we wait for the of the season to know if we were watching a 4-12 or 5-11 team. What’s the difference?