Judging by the final score, it would appear to have been just another Sunday for the Cleveland Browns. With their tenth consecutive loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns were sent into another frenzied Monday full of second-guessing and speculation.
At this point, one can assume that head coach Pat Shurmur won’t be in Cleveland after this season, if he even makes it that far (he probably will). His puzzling decisions on fourth down have seemingly sent everyone over the edge, even sealing his fate in the minds of Browns fans who have remained on the fence in regards to his tenure.
Despite this, and certainly despite the fact that the Browns are sitting at 2-7, not everything is hopeless in Cleveland. Even Sunday’s loss against the Ravens had enough evidence for one to believe that this team truly is turning the corner, that this isn’t “the same old Browns.”
Naturally, you have running back Trent Richardson to thank for much of that. He had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season on Sunday, totaling 105 yards on 25 carries to go along with six catches for 31 yards. Richardson alone could make Browns fans excited for the future.
And it’s not fair to discredit Brandon Weeden’s entire season after his shaky start against Baltimore. Anybody who has followed the Browns should be able to safely say that Weeden is quite possibly the best quarterback the team has had since returning in 1999 (yes, even as Weeden goes into the bye week with 12 interceptions and nine touchdowns). As a rookie, he’ll continue to have his ups and downs, but rarely has there been a quarterback in Cleveland with this kind of burgeoning talent.
But a healthy Browns defense is perhaps the biggest reason to remain optimistic about the future. With defensive tackle Phil Taylor back on Sunday, the Browns’ defense made the Ravens look foolish for most of the day. Though it surrendered a game-winning drive late, the defense looked as good as it has all season, and it’s no coincidence that it happened on the day of Taylor’s return.
A talented core group of players is being developed in Cleveland, that much is certain. And say what you will about Shurmur, but he has his team playing with heart. While his play calling won’t be missed, the attitude of the team under Shurmur might be. That isn’t always so easily replicated.
There are still seven games left to play. The Browns have kept it close in nearly every game this season, and have so often been on the verge of creating a very different storyline for themselves. This is their chance to change that. But even now, the progress is evident. Sooner rather than later, this perpetual patience will finally pay off for the fans.