The Cleveland Browns will not go 0-16 this fall
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns still have a rough road to travel in their latest rebuilding effort, but that doesn’t mean they will go winless in 2016.
The Cleveland Browns needed to do something different this off-season because what they’ve been doing since 1999 has simply not been working.
Their latest rebuilding project kicked off with a revamped front office, continued with a new, energetic coaching staff, included a new approach to strength training, and was topped off with the drafting of 14 rookies who will very much be in the mix for roster spots when training camp opens in July.
Even though no one associated with the team would ever admit it – there are luxury suites, advertising time and merchandise to be sold, after all – there is a high likelihood that the Browns will take a step (or more) back this fall before they can start moving forward.
Despite the enthusiasm of head coach Hue Jackson and the influx of potential talent, there are still some very hard truths facing the Browns:
- The quarterback situation remains as unsettled as at any time since 1999
- The offensive line is still in a state of flux
- The wide receiving group could be anchored by as many as four rookies
- The running game may not be productive in actually running the ball
- Both starting safeties and both starting inside linebackers from last season need to be replaced
- The defense should be better since Jim O’Neil is no longer running the show, but there is little recent evidence to suggest that it will be good under defensive coordinator Ray Horton
- The roster as a whole, for a variety of reasons, is still a work in progress and is ranked 31 out of 32 teams by Pro Football Focus, for what that is worth
Taking all that into consideration, it is not going too far out on a limb to say the Browns may have a hard time avoiding their 12th double-digit loss season in the past 14 years.
But will the Browns be one of the worst teams in NFL history? That is far more unlikely.
While point spreads are not a true indicator of whether or not a team is good, there is something to be said when a team is projected to go into a season as an underdog for 16 consecutive weeks, which is where the Browns find themselves, along with the San Francisco 49ers.
Things are so bleak, at least according to the odds makers, that the Browns are underdogs by less than a touchdown just six times all season – at home vs. the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Jets, the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants and the San Diego Chargers; and on the road against the Tennessee Titans.
Despite that sobering bit of news, the odds of the Browns going out and losing every game this fall are more than even Cleveland’s No. 1 team can pull off. Going back to 1944, only four teams in NFL history have managed to go an entire season without a win:
- the 1960 Dallas Cowboys (0–11–1)
- the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0–14)
- the 1982 Baltimore Colts (0–8–1)
- the 2008 Detroit Lions (0–16)
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As bad as the Browns have been over the years they always pull out a surprise or two during the season. Even last season the Browns were a blocked kick away from sweeping Baltimore and beating San Diego, took the Denver Broncos into overtime, and had the ball at the end of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs while only trailing by four.
The Browns may still be in the early stages of their latest rebuild, but there is no way they are a historically bad team. Nor do they face what should be considered a particularly onerous schedule outside of the AFC North.
The Titans, Jets and Miami Dolphins are very good, and while the NFC East is in the national spotlight every Sunday, the reality does not match the perception for those high-profile teams.
Next: Can Hue Jackson's attitude result in wins?
There are still going to be some dark days for the Browns before they start to see the light, but this team is moving in the right direction and the thought of them navigating an entire NFL season without winning a game is simply too far-fetched, even for these parts.