The Browns have been one of the more underachieving franchises in the past couple of decades. The Browns have won a total of four league championships (NFL). They won all four AAFC titles (including a 15–0 undefeated season in 1948) which are not recognized by the NFL, and after joining the NFL they won four league championships prior to the league’s merger with the American Football League (AFL) in 1970. After the merger the league renamed the championship game from the AFL-NFL World Championship, to the Super Bowl, and ever since then the Browns have not made an appearance.
Now back to more recent events. The Cleveland Browns had their fair share of bad luck and misfortune in the 2011-2012 NFL Season. They finished 29th in Total Offense while finishing with a record of 4-12. Although the highly improved Defense was ranked tenth for the entire season, their record shows that the team needs much more improvement, but where?
Let’s start where any normal fan would, the Quarterback. When Colt McCoy was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, expectations were high from the Texas Longhorn who just so happened to be the most winningest FBS Quarterback of all time. He wasn’t expected to start in his Rookie Season, but due to injuries to the 1st and 2nd string Quarterbacks, he made four consecutive starts were he led the team to two huge upset wins against the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots, and losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets. The following week he injured his ankle during a loss to Jacksonville and wouldn’t start another game until week 15. McCoy would finished the season with 6 TDs and 9 INTs. Not a very pretty season for the rookie to say the least. He showed flashes of quality, but struggled to develop. The 2011 Season rolled around and Browns fans were asking the same questions that they’ve been asking for years, “Will a Quarterback step up this season?”, “Will we ever make the playoffs again?”, “Who the heck is Peyton Hillis?” After the release of former starter Jake Delhomme, a tiring lockout and a blur of a preseason, McCoy would open as the starter. He would finish the season with the following stats:
McCoy showed signs of improvement, but were not what was expected from the second year Quarterback. He struggled to make much progress with the West Coast offense. One thing that could help all of this is more weapons on offense. A stud wide receiver or tight end could have made the difference for McCoy. After the Browns finished the season 4-12 there have been a lot of fans and critics that are starting to give up on Colt McCoy, wanting the team to draft a new quarterback with the fourth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. With all the doubt and criticism, Colt McCoy’s future is quite unsure heading into the offseason.
Yes, it’s easy to throw the blame on a Quarterback, but let’s be honest, it takes 53 players working towards one goal to make something happen, and when one person takes their eyes of the prize, it can cause devastating consequences to the team. Unfortunately, Browns running back Peyton Hillis, is a perfect example. 2010 was a fantastic break-out season for Peyton Hillis. He rushed for a total of 1,177 Yards on 161 Attempts, Scored a total of 20 Touchdowns and even won a fan vote to be on the cover of EA’s Madden 12. The Browns were in need of such a back to help support their young and developing Quarterback. Things were looking good for Hillis, and he was expected to better his break-out season in 2011. Things started unraveling when Hillis and the Browns couldn’t come together on contract negotiations, and then came his idiotic decision to sit out a game with “strep throat”, the hamstring injury that caused him to miss five straight games, his poor relationship with teammates and his too-little-too-late rally at the end of the season. Here are his 2011 stats:
Looks like the Madden Curse has struck again!
Last but certainly not least, the Defense. The Cleveland Browns defense has definitely shown some improvement in the past years going from 31st in the league in 2009, then 22nd in 2010, and eventually 10th for 2011. With a well experienced and developing line backing core, a young but improving defensive line, and a secondary that ranked in the top 5 in the NFL against the pass, the Cleveland Defense is the real anchor of this team. The only thing is the Browns also faced the least amount of pass attempts last season. The progress does not need to stop, in fact, they need to keep this trend if the Browns plan on making a playoff run anytime soon, because let’s face it, this offense is not going to get fixed overnight.
So what is the cure for this curse that the Cleveland Browns can’t seem to shake? Well they’ve tried many things in the past; they’ve changed head coaches five times since the year 2000. Such a revolving door of staff can be hard on a struggling team, and could actually be part of the problem. Pat Shurmur needs to show he belongs in Cleveland and steer this team back to success. Here are four main things the Browns need to focus on:
- Figure out the Quarterback situation– Colt McCoy has shown signs of improvement, but couldn’t make enough to impress last season. Drafting a Rookie Quarterback is always an option. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are the two front running Quarterbacks for this year’s draft. You have the fourth pick in the draft, Andrew Luck is most likely going to Indianapolis, the Rams seem to be happy with Sam Bradford as quarterback and the Vikings drafted QB Christian Ponder out of Florida State in last year’s draft. So it appears as if Robert Griffin III is yours for the taking if you choose to go that direction Cleveland.
- STAY ON THE DEFENSE! – Yes, they had an outstanding and much improved defense last season. But they only won four games! The offense needs work, and it’s going to take some time. They don’t ever need to feel satisfied with where they are. The coaching staff needs to push for more improvement through the draft and free agency; they could really use a solid cornerback.
- Give Colt McCoy some weapons- Cleveland’s receiving last year was needless to say… lacking. They finished out the season 25th in receiving. There are tons of receivers entering free agency. Many that are already developed and has had recent success, like Vincent Jackson, Robert Meachem, and Dwayne Bowe and there are plenty more. They could also use that fourth pick in the draft to snag stud wide receiver Justin Blackmon out of Oklahoma State. Any of these moves would make a huge difference for young Colt McCoy or whoever is under center next season.
- Hillis… get your act together– We’ve covered Peyton Hillis’ 2011 struggles. If he cares anything about this organization or winning, he’ll realize that he plays a vital role in the Browns having success. He needs to be solid so he can support the quarterback and prevent the offense from completely dismantling as it did much of last year. Peyton, pick yourself up, train, get back to the basics and run the football.
The Cleveland Browns have had a tough going in the past several decades. But I feel if they can take a step back and focus on improvement, fixing the obvious issues and adding new talent, this could truly be the beginning of a huge turn around for the franchise. The coaches want to see it, the players want to see it and most of all the fans want to see it. You’re on note Cleveland, your move.