Sunday, October 09, 2016

Here Comes The Hard Part...

Keep smiling, Hue. We're just getting to the hard part...
This is where is gets hard. The Cleveland Browns are 0-4 and by all accounts about to go 0-5 with their latest impending loss to the New England Patriots. I'm not going to speculate on their chances today in depth; it all just seems too obvious. A talent rich perennial winner is coming to town and, as we all know, Tom Brady is back in the line-up again for the first time this year. Obviously, Brady is angry over his suspension and looking to make an example of the remaining 12 teams he has to play, the Cleveland Browns just happen to be the first poor team to walk into the buzz saw.

That being said, I like this pugnacious young Browns team, and despite the impending 10.5 point spread, I expect the Cleveland Browns to play hard and hopefully stay in the game. This will be a great benchmark game for a young Browns squad. Stay with the Patriots, even come close to winning, and it's sign that Hue and his staff have moved this team a great distance in the time he's been here. 

It hasn't been easy, though. If we're all being honest, there is no way Hue Jackson hasn't gone to bed at least once and said to himself, "What the hell is going on here? Can't I catch at least one break?" Maybe even, "What did I do? Why did I come here?" This Browns team has had more than it's fair share of bad luck. Some of it is unavoidable, like the various injuries to Griffin III, McCown, C. Coleman, Nassib (back today hopefully), DeValve, Haden, Erving, the list goes on. 

One more example of past regimes' mistakes.
Some of the bad luck was almost self-inflicted, Josh Gordon is an example

But a lot of the bad luck was inflicted on the Browns by the league. I'm acknowledging my homer bent here, but it seems that the Browns have had an inordinate number of bad calls this year for a team that needs every break they can get. Starting with last week's debacle, when Duke Johnson fumbled and then immediately recovered, but the officials ruled that Washington recovered a phantom ball that wasn't in the scrum...because Duke Johnson was holding it. I've heard people say this week that it didn't really matter in terms of the outcome of the game, but I couldn't disagree more. There's no telling what transpires if that is ruled correctly.
But I have the football...
There was also Terrelle Pryor, Sr.'s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the Baltimore Ravens game that could have led to four chances at the end zone for the win.

And now, through no fault of their own, the Browns will have to bear the brunt of Tom Brady's ire for Roger Goodell. So once again, the league is stacking the deck against the Browns. There's a larger problem here, I think, but that's an article for another time.

But all of those unfortunate incidents aside, this season hasn't even gotten challenging yet. In true Cleveland fashion, the naysayers' cries of discontent are strengthening like a distant echo barreling down a canyon in your direction. Looking at the Browns' schedule there are three winnable games in the near future: Titans, Bengals, Jets. If they win two of those games, which at this point is a stretch, they will be 2-6 with eight games to go. From that period on, there are not a lot of games that jump out as wins, which means that this is going to get worse/harder before it gets better. I expect the Browns to steadily improve due to good coaching and hungry young athletes, but the detractors outside the building are going to get louder and louder. 
This is what bothers me. It's like hiring someone to gut your home and re-do it in the exact image of your dream house, and then showing up during the demolition phase and freaking out that they've torn down all the dry wall. It's short sighted and ignorant. 

Let's all back up folks. Look at this team and the problem with building a winner here from 30,000 feet instead of the mashed-up-face against the window view point we've all been prone to in the past. Remaking the roster is only part of the fixing that needs to be done here, and it looks to me like Hue, Sashi, and Paul are beginning to put things in line behind the scenes as well as assemble young hungry talent on the field. The bottom line is that through better drafting (how can our drafts not improve?) and better coaching (let's be honest, there was little coaching going on here in recent years) and an aligned vision through a dynamic leader like Hue Jackson, things will improve. It's just that right now the dry wall is in pieces on the floor, the studs are exposed, and the kitchen sink is sitting in a sad, lonely puddle in the back yard. Let's let the builders finish the demolition and construct a new structure and winner before we judge. In this case, with this group, I think patience is a virtue.

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