Here we are again, waiting for a better “Next Year”. A logical viewpoint of the Cleveland Browns and the 2013 NFL season would most certainly entail a 4-12 finish being the absolute best case, at this point, for our beloved Browns. We now travel to New England to battle the Patriots. We will then take on the Bears at home and finish our season on the road at the Jets and Steelers.
Is there logic in losing?
Absolutely, the season is all but a bust and we do not have the talent required to win. Therefore, a 4-12 season would certainly allow the best positioning to obtain our much-needed “franchise” quarterback. The logic is sound and I cannot argue it, but I do not agree.
What is truly best for the Browns?
Should we “tank” the season in order to receive a top pick?
No, absolutely not! Championship teams are not based upon the skill set of a single player. They never have been and they never will be.
Did Michael Jordan have help? Well, there was that Pippen fella, among a few others.
Did LeGONE James have help in Cleveland? Did we win?
Has he won since he found help elsewhere? I will pretend not to know that answer.
My point is simple. A team is exactly that, a TEAM. One player will not fix our woes. I truly hope we can get that “franchise” QB that has evaded us since we joined together, singing “Bernie, Bernie”. A 20-year drought has since taken its toll on our mentality, as to be expected, but our growth cannot stop there.
Our offensive line has struggled immensely. Our wide receivers (not named Gordon) have proven unreliable at best. Our running backs are slowly improving, but none have shown the promise of a featured back. We also need depth at cornerback, safety and tight end among other positions.
We need help in many places. I will surely find little argument in saying that quarterback, running back, guard and right tackle are positions of urgent need. The same can be said for cornerback, with the exception of a starter. I feel that depth is an absolute must, yet our starting corners should remain in place. Joe Haden is quickly proving to be among the top in the game, while Buster Skrine has shown not only a relentless motor, but also vast improvement. I say let them emerge as a top tandem in the league. Haden certainly showed his emotions in the loss to the Jaguars and I am sure he would like to have a play or two back from that one, but he remains the new “Top Dawg” and Skrine will continue to turn heads as he continues his rapid growth.
As I slowly circle back to the original topic here, let me ask you several questions.
How would Weeden play with a solid offensive line?
In Sunday’s loss, he obtained 370 yards passing and a quarterback rating of 94.8. If he were behind a solid offensive line he most certainly would play better. Hang on, I’m not done yet. No, I do not think Weeden should be included in our hopes for next year. He has proven an inability to maintain his cool under pressure, which o-line help would improve, but he also has proven himself to make bad FLIPPIN decisions. I feel he has endured much more criticism than any athlete ever should, but no, I do not want him at the helm next year and no, I do not believe that he is a “franchise guy”.
Will any quarterback play well behind our offensive line as it is?
I am confident that an explanation is not needed.
Do first-round picks get hurt?
We have seen a multitude of injuries this year alone among the top picks in the draft. If our focus is solely on a quarterback, and said quarterback happens to get injured, I may likely find myself re-writing this article next year.
Is a quarterback a requirement to win?
Ahh, thus we have the issue at hand. Yes, yes and yes. That question is easily answered with a look at the Packers, Bears and many other teams this season. We absolutely need a solid starting quarterback and depth behind him. I feel our depth should not be a concern with Hoyer, Trick-Shot Tanney and Campbell, or any two of the three, but we must find a starter. We also must allow that starter to survive long enough to grow into the “franchise” roll.
If we take a top tier QB in the draft, should they start the 2014 season?
As it is now the trend, quarterbacks are expected to jump right in and play flawlessly. Unfortunately, anything short of that will certainly enrage many in Cleveland. I hope that we can maintain our patience and allow the growth required for success. No, they should not be thrown directly into the fire, regardless of the new norm.
How would improving the line help our offense?
I will not insult your intelligence by assuming that you don’t already know that answer.
In what order should we address these positions of need?
Again, we touch on the heart of the matter. Common belief is that the order should be a quarterback first, followed by a running back, and then additions at wide receiver, guard, cornerback and tackle, in whichever order allows the best group of players. A QB is much needed and if we are in position to secure a “franchise guy”, we simply must, as they are too few and too far between. If not however, the offensive line should be our top priority.
What happens if we DON’T get a “franchise” quarterback in 2014?
I feel the most urgent of our needs is indeed QB, but perhaps just as important is the offensive line. It all starts in the middle. Our QB’s have been forced to run for their lives, while our running backs have found more defenders than holes. I will say it once more, without help on the offensive line it will not matter who is at the helm.
If we strengthen our line however, we will improve the running game and allow a mediocre to good quarterback to sustain us throughout the year. I too share your desire for immediate and overwhelming success, but the reality remains that these things need time. Dynasties are not born overnight. Whether we secure a quarterback or not, next year should mark great improvement, but the holes filled the year following will likely provide our earliest possible contention.
If the Brown’s top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is not the answer at quarterback, then perhaps a pick in the later rounds or even free agency, the 2015 draft, or our existing roster will be. In any scenario, we must continue to strengthen as a unit and grow as a team.
What builds a winning team?
First and foremost, I will not disagree that a quarterback is essential. That being said, the will to win coupled with a relentless attack are, in my mind, the most invaluable. We must fight. We must give it all we have and more. We must build the camaraderie in the locker room that championship teams are known for. It simply does not come by “tanking” or “giving up”. I will allow that hard-fought losses may indeed be best as they would certainly feed the fire, while allowing prime positioning in the draft, but only if it is not due to lack of heart and determination. A player without heart is not a player that will help and not a player that should be here in Cleveland.
We must build from the core in more ways than one. We must have a solid line on both sides of the ball. We must have the superior efforts of the “Joe Haden’s”, mixed with the relentless pursuit and drive of the “Buster Skrine’s”. It is after all, the unknown players filling the gaps that solidify a dynasty. If we can progress that likeness across the roster, we will find the quarterback position still essential, but much less crucial. In a word, it is TEAM that builds a winner.
I certainly hope we have success in obtaining a quarterback in the draft next season, but I also hope for success now. If we do not obtain success on the field then we must find success through growth of heart and strengthening of pride. We may likely lose the remaining games while giving an all out effort, as our depth of talent is not yet overwhelming. If so, we will be able to fill the void at the helm more easily. If we overcome the odds and pull out some additional victories, I say fantastic. Never give up! Never give in! Build the character of a champion.
There remains much work to be done and it will take more time than any of us prefer. A quarterback is truly needed, even desperately needed, but it is not the sole answer. Instead, the answer for Cleveland, the answer for us, is SOUL.
Thank you for reading.
I also encourage you to read this excellent article on the current front office and media hype from Dawg Pound Daily’s own “Top Dawg” Peter Smith.