In a word. No.
If I stopped right there, that probably would have been the shortest post in WFNY history. No such luck, though.
Yesterday, I came across an article on FoxSports that had my head cocked to the side like a confused puppy. Peter Schrager decided it was time to draw some attention to himself by knocking down some of the NFL teams that struggled most last season. The basis for his article is that the Detroit Lions put up the worst year in the history of the NFL. The Lions are much improved and there is no way they can go winless again. But, there are three teams that could challenge the winless Lions of a year ago for a season of winless futility. The teams that he chooses are the Bucs, the Rams, and yes, your Cleveland Browns.
Maybe I am the dummy here for playing into it, but I don’t really care. I am not going to get all angry and call names like “stupid,” “idiot,” “simpleton,” or even a personal favorite “knuckle dragger.” No. I am not going to use any of those words to describe Peter Schrager because of his article. Please, people. That kind of name-calling is childish. Instead, I am going to stick to the “facts” in his article.First of all, what article about Cleveland would be complete without a reminder that bad things have happened in Cleveland sports?
Things haven’t gone too well for the city of Cleveland this summer. The Cavaliers were shocked by the upstart Orlando Magic in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals in May, LeBron James has since come out publicly and said he’s not re-signing anytime this summer, and the Indians — viewed as a favorite in the American League Central prior to the season — are one of baseball’s biggest disappointments four months into the season.
Not sure what that has to do with anything. Last time I checked losing streaks and sports karma are fake. They don’t honestly carry over from sport to sport and from season to season. While LeBron and the Cavs losing to the Magic and the Indians’ futility has hurt our feelings recently, it has absolutely no actual spiritual connection to this upcoming Browns season. So while I appreciate the lemon in the wound, you just wasted a paragraph.
The same day Cleveland fans jumped for joy over news of a Brady Quinn 51-yard touchdown pass in a scrimmage on Sunday, No. 2 receiver Syndric Steptoe’s agent came out and publicly blamed new coach Eric Mangini for the season-ending injury his client suffered Saturday.
MMMMM’kay. So, the same receiver that inadequately filled in for Joe Jurevicius and Donte Stallworth last year gets hurt, complains and is cut in a public feud with his agent. So what? Shall we call this season the curse of Syndric Steptoe? If only the Browns knew going into this year they could count on Steptoe’s 19 catches, 8 first downs and 0 (ZERO) touchdowns this season.
There are even greater question marks at tight end. Winslow’s gone. Replacing him in ’09 will be a trio of less athletic, less accomplished veterans. Robert Royal, Martin Rucker and Steve Heiden — who, by the way, is recovering from December surgeries on his ACL and MCLA — are the re-enforcements. None of those three will be half the presence across the middle that Winslow was, which only puts more pressure (and coverage) on Edwards.
While I agree that tight end has some question marks, I have to wonder. Does this year’s squad have more or less question marks than it did when Winslow was here? I love Winslow when he is at his best. At the same time, he played in only 10 games a year ago. He is penalized frequently. There are questions about his ability to create space with his reduced speed from his surgically repaired knees. I think Peter Schrager forgot to read those articles out of Tampa about Winslow becoming the highest paid tight end in the league.
Defensively, the team has holes all over, too. Rob Ryan and Eric Mangini will look to provide more bite and scheme variation than the Romeo Crennel/Mel Tucker defenses of yesteryear. But is the talent there? Rod Hood was the big offseason addition. That’s not saying much.
Rod Hood was not the big offseason addition. While they aren’t Pro Bowlers, the big offseason additions were Eric Barton, Abe Elam, Kenyon Coleman, C.J. Mosely, and David Bowens. I know the list isn’t particularly impressive because of the top line talent it brings to the table. Still, it looks a whole lot deeper than the list of people that were replaced.
But the real point is this. The Browns aren’t world beaters. They have a lot of question marks. They are coming off of a year where they only won four games. The injured, listless, poorly coached Browns of a year ago won four games. Romeo Crennel coached that team with the corpse of Willie McGinest, Bizarro Braylon Edwards, Staph Sargeant Winslow, and the rest of the underperformers to four wins a year ago. Yet Peter Schrager wants us to seriously consider this Browns team to be in contention with last year’s Lions team? He wants us to think that a team that completed a year of statistical improbabilities and came out on the losing end 16 times could potentially be joined in that statistical anomaly in a successive year?
Not today Peter. The Browns aren’t in danger of being called good or anything. Eric Mangini may never be the architect of the winner we have all been hoping for. Still, I flat out refuse to believe that Mangini, and Rob Ryan (in particular) can possibly be worse coaches than Romeo Crennel and Mel Tucker a year ago. I will not believe it. Combine that with the level of injury the Browns had last year losing both their quarterbacks, most of the receivers, their best tight end, and their banged up defensive line and secondary and I don’t know if you can really bet that that will happen again this season. Think about it though. Even with all those problems, last year’s Browns team didn’t go 0 for the season.