The Cleveland Browns front office has a very defined plan in place for how they want to go about restoring the franchise to its former glory. Needless to say that plan is substantially different from the one the fans would implement if they were running the show. As a fan of the team I can honestly say I share that sentiment. The Browns are taking an agonizingly slow approach with this and trying to do things right, but it’s hard. It’s hard to watch the team flounder year after year in an attempt to build something sustainable.
What does that even mean? (For the record, that’s a rhetorical question. I know what sustainability is, but for the sake of this article just go with me)
The NFL is not a system which lends itself to sustainability. It’s a league with a structure which allows and even encourages parity on a yearly basis. Yes, everyone sees the Steelers, Patriots, and the Manning era Colts and says, “but they built something sustainable!” That may be, but when a league consists of 32 teams and you can only point out a small handful of examples it leads me to thinking those teams are outliers. They are exceptions to the rule.
Believe me, I want the Browns to be a competitive team in the hunt for a Super Bowl title every year. The fact of the matter is that just isn’t a likely scenario. It’s far more probable that the Browns would catch lightning in a bottle, ride that momentum to one or two… possibly three if they play their cards right… years of success, and then fall back to the pack.
And there in lies the problem.
If the Browns had been able to do that, then this ever continuing rebuilding project would be a hell of a lot more tolerable. Since 1999 the Browns have had two winning seasons and made the playoffs once. The other years have been down right miserable, peaking with three of the worst and most unwatchable seasons of football we may have ever seen. That doesn’t help instill hope and confidence. It breeds contempt, anger, and frustration, the likes of which we have never experienced as a fan base, even during the darkest years of the Art Modell era.
Now, under the leadership of Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert we finally thought we would see some actual progress. Instead it’s been more of the same. We can’t take anymore crappy football and we’ve gotten to the point where we need something… anything to keep us from getting liquored up on PBR and jumping off the I-480 bridge. What do the Browns do?
They hold a non-press conference press conference and say things like “Robert Griffin is intriguing, but nothing special in our eyes.” “We feel like there are four quality QB’s in this draft, not just one or two.” “We’ll dabble in free agency, but we aren’t going to go crazy.” “We’ve been in conversations with a lot of teams and wouldn’t be afraid to move either up or down if the price was right and we could still get the right player for our needs.” “No, we didn’t contact Peyton Manning or his people about possibly coming to Cleveland and playing for the Browns.” “Yeah, we’ll be down in Texas that same week as Giffin’s pro day, but I doubt we’ll be able to fit it in. We’re only going down because there one hell of a rib cook off going on down there that Mike says we have to go check out. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ok, so that last quote isn’t true, but would you have been surprised if it were? I’ll give it to the Browns though, any time you have the opportunity to hold an unofficial press conference with the local media to shoot down every hope and dream the fan base has for free agency and the draft and demoralize them in the process you almost always have to do it. So they get an A+ for that. I guess a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then after all.
But seriously, this has been such an agonizingly painful stretch for the Browns that many of us can only hold on to the hope and prayer that this is the world’s greatest smoke screen and that the Browns are playing everyone for fools. As soon as free agency begins they’ll sign a Mario Williams, Vincent Jackson, and Peyton Hillis. Come draft day they’ll go all in, trade up to two and take RG3. That’s all we have left to hope for…
Or maybe it’s just denial.