After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2007 and then living through the almost instantaneous internal combustion of the team a year later, Browns fans are all too aware of expectations. In fact that is why the post-2007 optimism was so strange. Fans were famously chanting about Super Bowls from the bleachers in Berea. They were ignoring their previous hypotheses regarding Romeo Crennel, the quarterbacks and pretty much everything else. The fans seemed to decide that it was finally time to drop the security blanket of pessimism that we normally carry around in a tighter fist than Linus in the Peanuts cartoons. All the while, muttering about how we will never do that again.
I am sure there are a few fans out there that are feeling a little offended at the reports from prognosticators around the league that have the Browns ranked near the bottom of the league to start this season. The Browns and their acquisitions flew largely under the radar this year, except when people were making fun of Jake Delhomme and the fact that the Browns didn’t manage to find a single receiver of known quality to add to the roster.
Still, as fans, it might be easy to say everyone is wrong. This team won their last four games. They ran all over everyone. Joshua Cribbs and Seneca Wallace are going to inject even more life into that running attack. Jake Delhomme will show just how bad the Browns’ QB corps was a year ago. The Browns have an all new linebackers, and secondary practically. Trust me, I get it.
Still, I want to caution everyone just a bit. This year’s Browns team seems to be headed in the right direction. I believe the Browns made a lot of good moves this off-season with their acquisitions. Still, I guarantee you right now that at least one of those measured, good ideas will fail. It could be Jake Delhomme, or it could be Joe Haden. It could be all of the safeties on the roster for that matter. Maybe it will be Ben Watson. Predicting what it could be is pointless.
My point is that even if all the things go right, this is still a team a year removed from being a nightmare to watch for over half a season. They won in some gutty performances down the stretch when some teams didn’t seem to care to show up anymore. Keep this in mind. The Browns could go out this year and have a couple of bad stretches and a couple of good stretches, win five games with two that they lose in heartbreaking fashion and it could still look and feel like an improvement over the team that we saw last year.
Guess what, though? Those same prognosticators that predicted the Browns to be the 28th – 30th best teams in the NFL will also be right. The Browns have a lot to prove. Rome wasn’t built in a day. All the clichés apply. Progress may come and look great this year, but don’t rule out the chance that the progress will be a lot more subtle than we hope.