The 2016 Cleveland Browns: They Will Be Terrible, I Will Be Happy
I’ve written in the past about my unfounded love for the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland sports fans are a special breed. A rare, loyal, stupid, stupid breed. Cleveland fanhood is a powerful thing, especially when it comes to the Browns. I don’t know how they did it, but the voodoo spell the Brownies have on the city defies time and space.
(I mean, really. The Browns are pure trash and manage to be the apple of Cleveland’s eye. The Cavs have LeBron and Kyrie, so they’re set for decades. The Indians, in the midst of what may wind up being the best regular season since the magical ’90s, are only just now pulling themselves out of the attendance basement. Poor guys. Blame the Browns.)
I’ve been a diehard fan since 2004, when I was 12 years old. The best Browns team I’ve ever known won 10 games in 2007, pretty much on accident, and still couldn’t manage to make the playoffs. The worst team I’ve ever known has to be a tie between the 2008 Eric Mangini/Derek Anderson team and the 2012 Pat Shurmur/Brandon Weeden team.
This season, by all accounts, should be worse. In my mind, there’s a very real chance the 2016 Browns go 2–14. At the very least, I see them tying last year’s 3–13 fiasco. As always, I’ll be watching every game. This year, however, I can soak it all in and breathe easy. We’re gonna suck, and it’ll be just fine. Here’s why:
I know we’re going to be terrible. I exist somewhere on the spectrum between realistic and optimistic, probably skewing more towards the latter. Every year, despite my brain insisting that the Browns will be bad, my heart says, “Hey, there is talent out there. If things go well, you’re looking at 8–10 wins!” My heart is almost always wrong, and I usually come face-to-face with that reality at 3:00 PM on a Sunday in October as the Browns are raising failure to high art against some terrible team like the New York Jets. This year, no amount of magic is getting us to eight wins. We’re gonna be terrible, and I’m ready for it. Bring it on.
We’re headed the right way. The Browns made some intriguing front office moves by bringing in Sashi Brown, a Harvard Law alumnus, and Paul DePodesta, a Harvard alumnus and the guy who Jonah Hill’s Moneyball character is based off of. (Hey, if this doesn’t work in a few years, at least it will be a funny story.) After firing head coach Mike Pettine, the Browns snagged the league’s hottest head coaching candidate, former Bengals Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson. The new group has almost certainly been given a long leash, because they’ve made a number of moves (such as trading the #2 pick in this year’s draft) that indicate a long-term rebuild, rather than the kind of quick-fix duct tape job that results in drafting Johnny Manziel. Jackson, realizing that past regimes drafted a bunch of bad players, defied past logic by working to quickly get rid of those players. Goodbye, Barkevious Mingo. Goodbye, Justin Gilbert.
There will be moments of excitement. The Browns grabbed Robert Griffin III to replace Johnny Football and the animated corpse of Josh McCown. If you’ve read this far, you know I’m not here to argue that RGIII is going to lead a Cleveland football renaissance this year. However, he showed glimpses of greatness in the preseason. Things will likely be rough, but I know he’ll make a few plays that make my loyalty worth it. We’ll also be running converted quarterback Terrelle Pryor out wide this year. He’s gonna be really raw, but the man is a physical specimen and he can run like the wind. Joining him are explosive rookie Corey Coleman and the most exciting Cleveland Brown in my lifetime, Josh Gordon. Between RGIII and his athletic WR corps, we’ll have a little bit of fun this season. Toss in solid role players like Gary Barnidge and Duke Johnson and the offense should be watchable sometimes.
We’re getting draft picks. This is a rebuilding year. We are not aiming for the playoffs. Let’s be as bad as possible so we can grab some great players in the 2017 NFL Draft. Not only do we have our own first round pick, but we also have the first rounder belonging to the Philadelphia Eagles. They’re gonna be almost as bad as we are! I vote we finish with the league’s worst record in order to ensure grabbing that #1 pick, something we haven’t had since 1999. We’ve been practicing for years for this season. The Olympics just wrapped up in Rio, but the Browns can still win the gold medal of garbage they’ve been training for. Get that #1 pick.
We got our championship. This is the best and biggest reason I’m so nonchalant about the Browns’ impending peril. I’ve quickly learned that there’s a fairly substantial honeymoon phase that comes after your city wins its first championship in 52 years. I’d love for the Browns to be great in another year or two, but I’m not worried a bit about the 2016 season. As far as I can tell, I’ve only absorbed about 10% of the happiness that the Cavaliers championship win gave me. As the Browns stink their way up and down the field this season, I’ll just keep watching replays of The Block and The Shot. Life is good.