The Browns and Cavs are both almost in the same exact place in the standings at the moment. Jason Lloyd pointed this out in a long, but good article mostly about the Cavaliers’ rebuilding. Take this stat, for example.
The Browns under Heckert even have a slightly higher winning percentage (.281) than the Cavs have under Grant (.273). Yet fans continue to implore the Cavs to lose while eviscerating the Browns for doing the same.
There are obvious differences between the Browns and the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers were coming off the most successful years in team history with LeBron James. The Cavaliers’ woes were never thought to be self-inflicted the way all of the wounds in Berea are viewed. The Cavaliers have a brash, communicative owner who tweets displeasure with big losses and seems to fight for his team and fans whenever possible. The Browns have a recluse who is threatening to come out of his shell a bit more. But other than an annual talk with Mike Trivisonno or a Scene profile, Randy Lerner is still more likely to skip the owners’ meetings than he is to start a twitter account or sit at the negotiating table during collective bargaining.
But even beyond ownership, there is one main difference between what the Cavs showed fans this year versus what the Browns were unable to show. The Cavaliers were able to create some excitement for the future while the Browns created only fear. Is it fair, just perception, or the fundamental differences between the NBA and the NFL?
In the Browns defense, it is hard to ever say you are only one player away in the NFL. With specialists galore on both sides of the ball and 50+ person active rosters, you can’t stink it up, draft Kyrie Irving win a few games on buzzer beaters and leave people hopeful in the NFL. Obviously a franchise quarterback helps immensely. Carolina Panthers fans are probably pretty hopeful for the future with their 6-10 season in the rear-view mirror, but we know it doesn’t even take a Cam Newton to create excitement.
Browns fans and writers (this one included) over-estimated the Browns coming into the 2011 season because of a guy named Peyton Hillis. Hillis showed what he was capable of doing when he was healthy, focused and motivated the year prior. There’s little doubt in my mind to this day if he had remained healthy and focused for 2011 he would have erased a lot of the growing pains that the offense felt all year long and left Browns feeling so very negative about the future.
It is a part of being a fan of the NFL though. I don’t know many Browns fans who would say they aren’t optimistic about Joe Thomas, Ahtyba Rubin, Alex Mack, Joe Haden, Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Greg Little, and T.J. Ward. There are others, of course, but those guys are eight relatively young, key pieces to the franchise going forward that Browns fans should probably feel pretty good about. Five of them were added in the previous two drafts.
Somehow that doesn’t translate to optimism for the Browns like it does because the Cavs have Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and seemingly found a diamond in the rough with Alonzo Gee. Again, the records are really similar in terms of win percentage, but it’s all about perception. In the end, there are a lot of similarities. I think both teams are off to a good start. I think both teams still have a ton of work to do to become relevant in playoff talks anytime soon. Both have significant opportunities to improve their teams this year, in particular with all the draft picks between the two.
We just all need to hope the Browns and Cavaliers have the one most important thing in common. We need to hope that they both have the right GM in place to make the moves to finish the job.