I’m fairly certain that there are few – if any – fans out there who believe that the Cleveland Browns are going to win the Super Bowl in 2011. I’m also sure there aren’t too many people who believe that the Browns are playoff-bound, either. Therefore, expectations have to be curbed down to a more realistic level, but that also means even the most optimistic fans are putting the Browns, at best, somewhere around .500. In that case, are we really promoting mediocrity and allowing ourselves to be trapped in a perpetual state of lowered expectations?
As frustrating as it is, we don’t really have a choice; the mediocrity that we allow to permeate through our predictions starts with the team itself. Since 1999, there have been very few years where expectations were high going into the season, and even when they were, the team failed miserably to live up to even a sliver of what was left of those shattered dreams. It is understandable that the fans are frustrated, and for some, the prospect of having to get excited about seven (wow, seven!) potential wins is pretty underwhelming.
These consistent losing seasons also force the coaches and front office to always be on the lookout for the ax, throwing the organization into a constant state of flux. That being said, the Cleveland Browns seem to be moving in the right direction with the implementation of Mike Holmgren as team president. His presence has already brought an element of stability to the franchise that has been absent since, well, 1999.
The coaching staff, on the other hand, seems to remain in a state of uncertainty, even though head coach Eric Mangini was retained after his first season with the team, finishing 5-11. Fans are split on what they want to see happen to Mangini, and the decision becomes especially difficult after the team needed four straight wins just to finish with that grand total of five. Should the team win six games in 2010, does Mangini earn praise for improving on 2009? Or does he deserve to be canned for coaching a team that would once again be picking in the top-ten of the NFL Draft?
Most people would aim for Mangini to lose his job in that scenario without considering the talent that is on the team. Without a legitimate receiving corps and a suspect defense – which includes what is becoming a very young secondary – how can anyone expect Mangini to win more than six or even seven games? Of course, these are still the numbers of a very poor team, but it truly would be an improvement to see the Browns win seven games in 2010.
It might be hard to admit for some, but there is no reason Mangini shouldn’t keep his job should the team win anywhere from 6-8 wins. I truly expect the team to fall somewhere in that range, though seven is the number I keep coming back to in my head. Between Mangini’s apparent faux-job security and the rumors of Holmgren potentially breathing down his neck to eventually take over, the Browns are put in a precarious position. Single digit wins would be an improvement and with this team, that sort of mediocrity is something we have come to terms with, though there are many of us fighting to make bolder predictions.
There might even be a day when we can start predicting deep playoff runs for the Cleveland Browns. A day where a prediction like that wouldn’t be the punchline to a joke.