July 22, 2014

Setting the bar for the 2013 Cleveland Browns

Browns helmet

There is a big difference between expectations and predictions. I’ve been very consistent with my Browns expectations since last season ended, and I’m not willing to change them now.

Based on the roster that was in place and the opportunities that this front office has had with their first off-season, I believe it’s reasonable to expect this Browns team to win eight games this season. Eight wins seems like an outside possibility, and I hope I’m wrong, but that wouldn’t be my prediction right now. Regardless, that will be my baseline for criticism this season. I want to see if the Browns look and feel like an eight-win team. I want to see if the Browns seem like they’re on an upward trajectory. I want to see how this team competes and carries itself as they either hit, surpass or fall short of my eight win expectations.

I’m taking a realistic approach to what I think a reasonable NFL fan can expect from a team at the Browns’ current development level. As Browns teams go, this one has been on a path since Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert arrived. They were old and bad when Heckert arrived. Then they were young and bad for a while, but many Browns fans and media members have assumed that they were even worse than they should have been due to coaching. Now, with a new front office and coaching staff in place and another year of experience on a roster that didn’t need a complete overhaul, this Browns team is still young, but they should be markedly better.

Again, I’m not predicting eight wins. There are too many questions that the Browns need to answer. Will Buster Skrine be a capable second corner? If he’s not, the front office will have a lot of explaining to do. Will Brandon Weeden make progress? If not, is it coaching? Should the front office have seen the writing on the wall? Will Trent Richardson make progress and also remain healthy? If not, were his backups capable and ready? My point is that we all knew and know the questions — including Rob Chudzinski, Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi — and the job of the team is to take the inherited team and improve them by answering those questions. If they did so successfully, it could be an eight win season.

Of course, we still have to watch the team and judge with our own eyes. If the Browns don’t win eight games it doesn’t necessarily mean that Banner, Lombardi and Chudzinski have failed. There are always going to be things that happen like injuries that make the task of meeting expectations impossible. There’s a chance that this team could win five games again and still pass muster with our eyes. I talked about this a couple weeks ago when comparing Brandon Weeden with Andrew Luck. If you just look at stats from their rookie seasons, you might be able to find a way to convince yourself that Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck aren’t all that different. Anyone who actually watched both of them play knows this is false.

That’s why eight wins is not the only way for 2013 to be a successful season for the Browns. If for whatever reason Brian Hoyer has to play quarterback for a large portion of the season, it’s probably unreasonable to crush a front office for not being able to win with their third string quarterback. Then again if Brian Hoyer is playing and the defense is playing a good amount of dominant football and they’re still losing close games, that does mean something more than just a big fat L on the schedule.

So, we’ll see. I know I’ve written a lot of these types of things before, but as we head into another Browns season wondering what this team can be, it’s important to reset the baseline for criticism. I expect a season of competent football with moments that should make us think we’re watching a playoff team and other moments that show us how far they have to go.

More specifically, these are things I’m expecting. It’s time for the Browns to start winning a bit more in the division and beat the more marginal teams on their schedule in more decisive fashion. It’s time for the Browns to avoid starting the season with five game losing streaks. It’s time for the Browns to give the fans more satisfying victories than, say, 7-6 over the Chargers at home. It’s time to have a team that doesn’t cause us to look at the draft in search of a savior, but rather as an off-season event to improve depth and reliability.

I think it’s possible. I think it’s reasonable. It is what I expect out of this year’s Browns.

(Image via Candice Vlcek/WFNY)

  • mgbode

    I expect that the Browns season will illicit many thoughts of the ending of Shawshank Redemption.

  • nj0

    I don’t think not paying Perez is drastic, but you’re right in that we don’t have too much wiggle room, barring another uptick in spending (which might be possible thanks to increased rsn money).

    I’ve crunched the numbers before (rounded #s)-
    COMING OFF THE BOOKS: $26M
    SALARY INCREASES: $22M (w. UJ’s $7M option)
    PLAYERS GOING TO ARBITRATION: 7

  • mgbode

    thanks.

    I’m thinking straight-up dumping Perez, which sounds drastic even if it isn’t (hopefully getting a B-level guy but, if not, then outright releasing him – no arb.). And, I am one of the people who think he has done a decent job. Just cannot afford to pay him what he will get.

    Asdrubal I would actually prefer to move to 3B and hope to get draft pick compensation when he leaves.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yea when you waste $5M on a Sizemore, $7M on a Myers and whatever Reynolds got that doesn’t help either. But I can solve Perez and Cabrera with one simple word: Trade!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    WITNESS!!!!

  • nj0

    Agreed on both accounts. At this point, we’d be selling low on Asdrubal. I think you just have to ride it out and hope he rebounds. He has every reason to take next year deadly serious.

    Funny how similar the career arcs for him and Peralta have been up to now. Yes, their games are slightly different, but they both have seemed to suffer from a lack of motivation at times.

  • FearTheRoo

    With the 1st pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select…Teddy Bridgewater, University of Louisville.

  • Rudy

    For #1, he’s gonna need over 400 carries

  • Rudy

    With Mary Kay on the job, there will be plenty off-field drama stories in the PD.

  • Jaker

    3-3 in the Division, winning record at home, beat the Jets.
    Weeden- Top 20 in TD-INT ratio, top 20 in yards
    TRich- 1,000 yds, 4.2 avg, 10 TDs. No significant injuries
    Cameron becomes a Top 10 TE for next year(not as hard as you think)
    Gordon establishes that he IS a #1 WR.
    Little outside the top 10 in drops
    Defense gives up les ppg then we score pg

    That would be extremely successful in my opinion

  • Jaker

    love 5+6

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Did they trade down and take the Oakland Raiders’ pick?