Is Sunday’s Game Against the Colts a Must-Win for the Cleveland Browns?


The reaction in Cleveland to the Browns’ performance against the Cincinnati Bengals was not good, to say the least. Fans were upset and disgruntled for being subjected to the “same old Browns,” a mistake-prone team that can’t move the ball or keep a lead. You heard the typical “that’s it, I’m never watching this team again” talk and got the sense that an alarming number of people considered the season to be doomed.

But is it? It’s easy to get carried away after one game, to overreact at the product on the field. Not that the Browns will be playoff contenders, but plenty of teams have come back from season-opening disappointments to have all kinds of overall records. Take a look at the overall results of just a few teams that have dropped the first game of the season:

2001 New England Patriots: 11-5 (after dropping three of first four games), won Super Bowl

2004 Indianapolis Colts: 12-4, lost in Divisional round of playoffs

2005 Carolina Panthers: 11-5, lost in NFC Championship Game

2007 New Orleans Saints: 7-9 (after dropping first four games)

2009 Chicago Bears: 7-9

2009 Houston Texans: 9-7

Are these results that can be expected for every team that drops their first game? Of course not, but it proves that a season can’t simply be defined by what happens in the first game, especially for a team like the Browns. No one expects them to be playoff contenders this season, not after installing a new offense, defense, and coaching staff. Therefore, the key word here, the word that no one necessarily wants to hear, is patience.

There are bound to be growing pains and games like the one that took place last Sunday. For the sake of the general psyche of the fan base, you may consider this week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts to be a must-win situation, but in reality, it’s not. While it will always behoove the Browns to be competitive, completely dismantling a team and overhauling the system takes time.

The Browns are certainly on the right track, and there is nothing wrong with holding their play on the field to a certain standard, but the playoffs were never really in the cards this season anyway. To consider the second game of the season a true “must-win” for the Browns isn’t taking much into account, other than a misguided notion that this team is better than it is. This past Sunday won’t be the last time in the 2011 season that the Browns lose to a supposed inferior opponent.

Because of that, everyone needs to take a deep breath and a step back. The Browns are only one game into the season and to finish 7-9, or even 6-10, would be a success. To reach that goal, the Browns have plenty of time to make it happen.