The Browns season is over and the final record is 7-10. Disappointing yes, but I thought in August they would win 8 games, and I was overly optimistic as were many others. I love the Browns and I want them to win as much as you do. As the writer of this weekly piece, I try to watch them with my head and not my heart, and I encourage you to try to do the same. We all want them to be good, but they're just not. In fact, there is very little to take away from this season that is positive. And additionally they did the unthinkable, in many ways they became hard to like.
This season the Browns to me, really played about 2 very good games start to finish against good teams at full strength. The first Bengal game on national TV was the best. At home, beating a very good team soundly. The Ravens home game too was pretty good, as we won a tough one, although the Ravens were without their MVP QB, so you better win that game at home again on national TV. But the rest of the wins, Panthers, Bucs, Texans, Steelers (week 3) and Washington are all pretty lousy teams or in the Steelers case were at the time. The Bucs although in the playoffs, finished 8-9.
Who we lost to and how we lost is another story. Jets, (blew a 13 point lead in last 2:00). The Falcons, (were physically beaten down). The Chargers (same), Patriots (same by 23), Bills (same), Ravens (by 3), Dolphins (by 22), Bengals (soundly), Saints (in -10 weather at home), Steelers (by 14). And some of these games were really noncompetitive. I don't like it either, but it's true.
The Browns fired Joe Woods yesterday, but I'm not sure that will make any real difference but someone has to pay. On defense, the Browns idea is very wrong, I'm not sure it can be fixed in a year. They are too small, too weak, have a bunch of overrated players with no high draft picks to help get it right. The problem on D is this. The organization thinks small and fast is the way to go and they are wrong, dead wrong. This is the NFL! They need a large D overhaul and new thinking.
Next up some honest figures. Kevin Stefanski has three years in now, his record is 28-24, and some are thrilled, I'm not. I understand it's better than the 1-31 years, but this is a team that wants a Superbowl. Jacoby Brissett was brought in to keep the season afloat, and he played quite well. But his career record is win 1 and lose 2, and that's what he did going 4-7. Then Deshaun Watson was given 240 million guaranteed dollars, and his career record is .500, and that's what he did going 3-3. All above is mediocre.
If the goal is to win and win big and soon, I don't today see a clear path with their stubbornness with analytics, unrest in the coaching staff, rumored immaturity in the locker room, a lack of accountability, and the absolute resistance to playing smart Sunday football. Analytics HATES running the football, and our best player, Nick Chubb is the NFL's best running back we have invested in heavily. Make any sense? Outside of Chubb our offensive play makers seldom make great plays and we stopped scoring real points once Watson became the QB and Brissett was sent to the bench, as is Chubb routinely when the game matters. These are real issues.
But we want them to win so badly, we think that mediocre is better than 1-31, and that's true. But if the Superbowl is really the goal, then we need to demand more from the front office, the coaches and the players, ALL who are under performing and have been for two years now. Don't be fooled, the Browns are a last place team right now, and are falling even further behind in their own division. We finished below the Steelers who many were laughing at how bad they might be this year, but who's laughing now?
The Browns played 3-3 in the division and that's "fine." It's also literally mediocre again as .500 is the very definition of it. The were SWEPT by the AFC East, and played .500 against the NFC South 2-2, by far the WORST division in the NFL, and were a miracle kick away in week one from being 1-3. When you look at it honestly, it's not pretty at all.
So now what? The Browns MUST look at themselves as a total organization honestly this off season and make major changes on many levels on all sides of the ball. They also must revisit the schemes and thought processes behind the scenes. They must admit mistakes and fault and take accountability for this debacle of a season. If not, nothing will really change, and 7-10 will be in play next year along with another last place divisional finish. Altough at first glance the schedule next year may be much easier, but that can always change.
There is much work to do. But do they have the real desire, passion, and guts to do what needs to be done, because in the last two years and counting still, the Browns organization overall have shown us none.