With a new owner, new coaches, upgrades to the facilities, and a new attacking defense, early September seemed to hold a lot of promise for the Cleveland Browns. Realistically, I don’t think anyone saw us making the playoffs. But many talked about an 8-8 or 7-9 season.
After a rough 0-2 start, the Browns seemed to find some juice with back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer, the mended Brandon Weeden against Buffalo, and Jason Campbell.
Going into the Bye Week, the team was 4-5, and the local media and fans were talking about the possibilities of a Wildcard berth.
Then we experienced five losses in a row and now the Browns sit at 4-10. No longer are we in the hunt for the Wildcard, and even the hope of a .500 season is gone.
But it is actually worse than that.
In reaching 4-10 the team has hit a milestone of sorts. In the last eleven years, this team has had ten seasons where they experienced ten or more losses. In fact, the Browns only reached ten wins once, in 2007.
The Browns have never experienced a decade like this one.
The team statistics are pretty tough to take. Looking back over the last twelve years, discounting the first two expansion years, the team finished 4th in the division every year but five. They were third for three seasons, finished 2nd in 2002, and had only one 1st in 2007.
Over that period the Browns went 68-124, for a winning percentage of 35%. They scored 3,299 points, and allowed 4,122, for a differential that favored their opponents by 823 points.
They were ranked as a top ten team only once, finishing 8th in 2007. In fact, they typically were much lower. The Browns were ranked 24th or lower eleven times, and finished 29th or lower for seven seasons. They were 31st in 2010, and 32nd in 2005. Their average ranking over the twelve year period was 26th.
The Browns have had eight seasons when they had records of 5-11 or 4-12.
Perhaps the toughest stat to endure for fans is their performance in years that followed winning seasons. In 2002, the Browns were 9-7 and made it to the playoffs. In 2003, however, they finished 5-11.
In 2007, the Browns went 10-6 and unbelievably did not get a Wildcard berth. But, just as in 2003, the wheels came off the following year, with 4-12 record in 2008.
For fans, the seasons of hope and promise were followed by the unexpected: not with continued improvement, but with disappointment and rebuilding.
This fan base remained loyal after the move. They hung on during the first two years of the expansion, hoping better times were coming.
They stuck around after two promising seasons only to experience disappointment the next. The fans have been through a lot. In light of this, no one should be surprised by their actions and frustrations. If they “Boo” when the offense only manages three downs and a punt, it’s pretty understandable.
I believe that if this team shows any positive sign, the fans will applaud and get excited. They’re desperate for something to cheer about. Heck, any coaching staff that can deliver competitive, back-to-back 10-6 seasons would be worshipped in this town, and that would be without playoff or Super Bowl appearances.
This is something the current administration needs to understand. Even though they have only been with us for a season, right now, they embody the Browns, past and present. They will be the focus of over a decade of frustration if the team continues to perform poorly. Hopefully, they’re prepared for that.