Let’s do this over the next several columns in the same way that you might go through writing a paper back in the days of getting report cards. Classic five paragraph essay: intro, body, body, body, conclusion. Everybody in? Great.
So let’s break this past season down the way our forefathers intended: by looking at the Pro-Football-Reference.com page for the 2012 Cleveland Browns and addressing the portions that are mentioned in the heading area.
A 5-11 record, 24th in scoring, 19th in points allowed, 24th in point differential, and 12th in turnover differential. So out of those main five areas, only one was in the top half.
Let’s think about this for a moment. 5-11 is not very good. Injuries and suspensions were a factor in a couple of situations: Trent Richardson’s busted ribs, Joe Haden’s suspension, Phil Taylor’s pec, Scott Fujita’s suspension, Greg Little’s hands, etc. Most of these things were ultimately overcome to some extent, as the team improved a bit over the course of the year. Starting 0-5, ending at 5-11 – that’s not a total waste of a year, especially when “experts” predicted between 0-2 wins for the season.
For comparison, the 2011 season was 4-12, 30th in scoring, 5th on defense, 27th in point differential, and 14th in turnover differential.
As much as fans wanted to pretend, it was a long shot to imagine that the Browns would put up a top-five defense again, especially when hit with a four-game layoff for the team’s defensive MVP (and the aforementioned issues with Fujita and Taylor). So falling back to 12th in defense is acceptable to me.
The offense was a stark improvement. Think about that for a second. Think about every time you couldn’t believe how inept the Browns offense was this season. Think about every punt on 4th-and-1. Think about every failed conversion. Think about every settle-for-a-field-goal-instead-of-going-for-a-touchdown. And now think about how this year’s squad scored over five points per game more than last year’s. That is drastically better. I shudder to think about what we were going through in 2011. If only I’d written this same type of article then.
I don’t really have answers for this part of the report card. The offense was better than it was last year, which we’ll take a slightly closer look at soon. The defense was a little worse than last year, which we’ll take a look at soon as well (and get mad about because the NFL is just doing everything it possibly can to discourage defense). After that we can take a brief look at special teams (where the Browns, of course, scored a pair of Pro Bowlers, which is just such a wonderfully accurate portrayal of the team as a whole) and pretend we’re happy about what they were able to accomplish.
And like any good introductory paragraph in any good five-paragraph essay, this one ends with my thesis statement.
Simply put, the Browns were not as bad as they seemed this past season.