Browns: Why Winning Still Matters


Dec 14, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine looks up at the scoreboard during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Bengals beat the Browns 30-0. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll open with a personal note-I apologize for the lack of a post-game article on Monday. Frankly, there was nothing to be said after a game like that. No player or position seemed to show any sort of growth and no plays were made.

So the question becomes-where do the Cleveland Browns go form here? Will they limp to the finish line at 7-9 after losing 5 straight? Speaking in big-picture terms, most of us would have taken 7-9 when this season began, especially with quality wins over Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and going toe-to-toe with conference powerhouse Indianapolis.

But as the season goes on, things change. Expectations change. The Browns are all but mathematically eliminated now, which is horribly disappointing compared to the hopes we all had just a month ago following a last-second, thrilling win over Atlanta.

How did it happen? A multitude of factors could be cited- the mounting injuries, slow development from a top-10 pick, a free-agent bust in Ben Tate, and the starting quarterback fading down the stretch and seemingly hitting a performance ceiling, and young roster with a lot of rookies not used to playing such a long season and possibly hitting the dreaded “rookie wall” that can occur after 12 games. All of these factors have arguably played a part, but true contenders are able to overcome them. To the Browns credit, they have for a lot of the season and have over-achieved and exceeded preseason expectations. At the very least, they will come out with their first season without double-digit losses in a long time, and are playing relevant football games in December.

Unfortunately, though, a frustrating truth is emerging.

Author’s disclaimer: I am a fan of Mike Pettine. Have been from the beginning of the season, and I remain one. I think he has gotten the most out of a tough situation and he and his staff have certainly gotten some overall decent results from a lot of young players and have had to overcome plenty of injuries and drama. The “Play like a Brown” mantra might seem a little cliché and tired but when have we had a head coach since 1999 who has deliberately tried to proclaim and establish a culture like that? None that I can remember. Heck, the closest was probably Ray Horton with the defense last year, but frankly by the end of the year it turned into a parade of excuse-making after the team continually blew leads.

But the Cleveland Browns have had a troubling trend this year-they have had some major issues handling success. I’ve alluded to it before, but this past Sunday was literally a make or break game for the season, and after a 30-0 drubbing in which the team looked like it hadn’t even practiced all week, attention has turned to assessing players for next season and even draft talk.

The team can still prove the doubters wrong, though. They just  need to push all of the talk of the future to the side


The team can still prove the doubters wrong, though. They just  need to push all of the talk of the future to the side. They’re aware that any realistic possibility of playing in January is gone, but what is important is proving to themselves AND the fans that these aren’t the same old Browns who will end the season with the usual nosedive.

Professional football players shouldn’t need extra motivation to play hard and want to win. It’s on them to go out and perform. But as the face, manager, and ultimate leader of the team, it’s up to Coach Pettine to be the first in line to push this team to finish strong. Even if the Browns don’t make the playoffs, he needs to remind them of what they’ve accomplished and how important it is to prove to everyone that their brief time in first place was no fluke in the long term.

More from Dawg Pound Daily

Yes, there are questions this team needs to try to get answered these next two weeks. Does Johnny Manziel have what it takes to be a franchise quarterback? Is Josh Gordon capable of harnessing his immense talent, or is he showing legitimate issues with effort and attitude that could jeopardize his future with the team? Will Justin Gilbert be able to continue his development and become a lockdown corner to pair opposite Joe Haden next year? Will Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell continue to perform and reward the teams’ faith in their ability?

While none of these issues should be forgotten, the important thing is that the team doesn’t sacrifice winning to answer any of them. If the team goes all out and plays with nothing to lose, those players will answer those questions themselves with their own performance.

Connect with Dawg Pound Daily

What are you expecting from the Browns to close the season?