Coming into this season there were a lot around the league who decided to ignore the fact that the Browns made wholesale changes to their roster. They decided to ignore the fact that Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert joined the team. They decided to ignore the fact that there was massive turnover of the roster since the beginning of last season. They were slamming the team and telling everyone to take the under 5.5 win total that Vegas was trotting out. After last week’s game (which most people didn’t watch) I am sure the experts were feeling quite good and smug about their predictions that the Browns stink this year because they stunk most of last year and in major parts of many years before that. Were they really right though?
The Browns laid an egg in their opener, but not until after they showed an ability to move the ball in spurts. Eventually they shot themselves in the foot (or maybe Jake Delhomme’s ankle) when they lost the turnover battle, cowered in the corner and tapped out to Tampa’s mild flurry of second-half punches. It was not a game to be proud of. I was certainly critical of the performance in my own right. Still, I haven’t given up on the whole season because the Browns failed to finish a game that we expected them to win. And those pre-season critics, does the first game mean that they were right though? They feel good this week, but it is way too early to tell.
The NFL is a fluid league and so are the rosters. Over 50 players make up an NFL roster, but after injuries start to settle in, those rosters seem minuscule. As some teams need to start giving playing time to the backups’ backups those predictions go out the window.
Between survivor pools, pick ‘em leagues and fantasy football, as fans we now look at football in a new way. Instead of thinking that Josh Cribbs will surely play better after a pretty bad week returning kicks and playing on offense, we are programmed to think negatively about him because we can’t count on him to help our fantasy team. Instead of thinking that the Browns had a bad week to start against the Buccaneers, they have to be painted in a singular color of lower-level mediocrity. That kind of thinking is useful for pick ‘em leagues, but ultimately is of no use on Sundays when teams actually play games.
If the Browns play every game like they did against the Buccaneers this year they will obviously lose almost all of them. That is not how this game works. Teams show up big on certain weeks. They bust out in others. Historically this Browns franchise has had more games like they had against the Buccaneers than they have like the Monday Night game against the Giants a couple years back. I will admit that the early returns on the team from what we saw a week ago do not appear promising. Then again, last year’s Browns team had no business going on a win streak to end the season. My point is that if you think you know what the Browns are going to do for the rest of the season based on week one, then you are crazy.
Players aren’t these known quantities of talent that show up the exact same every week. There are ebbs and flows throughout the whole team including the coaching staff that has good and bad weeks. The team might turn out to be every bit as bad as the three wins that some critics are predicting. To think that it has been proven definitively after a single week is ludicrous.