The off-season already feels old for the Cleveland Browns as it’s been 35 days since they last played football on December 29. As the Browns seem set to announce Kyle Shanahan as their offensive coordinator, and as we sit back and think about how Seattle decimated the Broncos in the Super Bowl, I have a few hopes for the Browns.
I hope that Mike Pettine never makes us second-guess the idea that the Browns could have or should have waited and gotten Seattle’s defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. No doubt that Quinn deserves credit for how Seattle’s defense played this season and especially on the biggest stage in New York across from Peyton Manning. It was a defense that helped Seattle win the turnover battle 4-0 in the Super Bowl. Consider that Seattle’s first three scoring drives were 51 yards, 58 yards, and 37 yards. Seattle’s offense was good, but offenses tend to do a lot of damage when constantly given short-field reps. Back to Quinn.
No doubt he deserves some credit, and it would have been amazing PR for the Browns to hire Dan Quinn on the heels of a defensive performance like Seattle put up in the Super Bowl, but as far as any of us know, that’s just a narrative. Mike Pettine is a hiring that the Browns should be able to stand behind regardless of what Quinn did a week and a half after Pettine was hired. And speaking of narratives, to simplify the hiring process down to the fact that Pettine coordinated for Buffalo with six wins and Quinn coordinated for the Super Bowl champs seems silly. As I said, I hope Mike Pettine never makes us second-guess this.
I hope that Kyle Shanahan is able to work with the pieces in place and make them better. The Browns will obviously have to upgrade many positions and will have decisions to make in order to do that, but I hope we don’t see roster turnover for the sake of “system.” If the Browns want to bring in a free agent running back or wide receiver, that’s great, of course. At the same time, there are some opportunities to improve on this roster. Mitchell Schwartz has played two very uneven seasons to start his career. I don’t think he’s without potential. After two seasons, I remain interested in Josh Cooper as a receiver. I don’t want to overstate that interest, but these are cheap guys under control that an NFL staff needs to make the most of.
Again back to the Super Bowl. Seattle has some high profile receivers like Golden Tate and Percy Harvin, but they also get really meaningful contributions from young, undrafted guys like Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. That’s not to say Josh Cooper is definitely to the level of either of those guys, but I’m hoping Kyle Shanahan and his staff can finally make the most of young, inherited guys rather than engaging in another complete roster turnover.
I hope the Browns are aggressive in their pursuit of a quarterback this off-season. That doesn’t mean I want them to be stupid and overpay for any of the available options, of course, but I want them to fill three roster spots with potential starters if they must. I understand why the Kirk Cousins rumors are there just like I understood the Ryan Mallett talk with regard to Michael Lombardi. These are dots that are easy to connect just like Hoyer to the Browns ended up happening when it became possible. I can’t tell you whether the Browns should try to trade for Kirk Cousins or not. I do know that Kyle Shanahan is as qualified as anyone to make that judgement.
From my perspective, whether it’s Mallett, Cousins, Johnny Football, Teddy Bridgewater, Brandon Weeden or Vince Young, I want the Browns to be prepared to have competent quarterback play for the entire 2014 NFL season. Well maybe not Vince Young, but you get my point. I don’t need Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace or Jason Campbell. I don’t need Brandon Weeden. As much promise as I saw from Brian Hoyer, I don’t need the Browns betting it all on a guy who was promising for 96 regular-season pass attempts across two-plus football games. Shanahan’s former team in Washington is in its own mess, but I am still envious of the way they doubled down on quarterback in the draft even if I have some doubts about the way they mortgaged the future to acquire RG3.
Look at Seattle yet again. They ended up finding Russell Wilson, but they weren’t afraid to be aggressive as Wilson was forced to beat Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn. Seattle decided they’d had enough of Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. Signing Flynn was aggressive, even if it didn’t work out, and naming Wilson starter was bold at the time, and it did work out. They aggressively pursued options though.
Most of all, I hope for the Browns because I hope for us. There’s no evidence that the Browns are headed in the right direction or that they’ve done anything well this off-season. That’s not a slam on them as much as it’s just a statement of fact. Even the things we like right now, we can’t know if those feelings are founded or unfounded. I just know that at a time where I can’t feel less confident that I even know what it means to root for a set of colors anymore, I wouldn’t be having this existential crisis if the team was just winning and showing signs of improvement and relevance. I’m also tired of the bickering and in-fighting that certainly doesn’t get as toxic in cities where there’s some hope and momentum.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I really want to talk about football more this year and less about the virtual “reality show” that surrounds the game. That will be much easier if the Browns can win and be exciting again.
Are any of these too much to ask?