Cleveland Browns: Will lower expectations help fans cope in 2016?


Will Cleveland Browns fans handle losses any better in 2016 with lower expectations?

With the exception of a 7-9 record in 2014, the Cleveland Browns have not won more than five games in a season since 2007. The misery of the last decade escalated into an epic, woeful crescendo with a 3-13 record in 2015. In what many labeled as the worst season in Browns history, Browns fans lived in a football horror movie, sticking it out until the conclusion of the final game.

What made 2015 more occupied with anguish compared to any other Browns losing season? Well, a 3-13 record certainly didn’t help, but other circumstances including the higher expectations coming into 2015 contributed significantly as well.

In the current NFL, fans are often preoccupied with others’ and their own analysis of their team. When they don’t foresee their team having a successful season, yet the team wins more games than expected, fans celebrate, even if they fall short of their ultimate goal. Similarly, if the fans are anticipating a winning season and they don’t get one, teams can be quickly scrutinized and pressured to make changes.

Overall, the underlying factor is expectations. Expectations define how fans feel about their team. The same holds true for Browns fans, who have experienced both unexpected success and unpredicted failure.

As the Browns enter what could be their ninth consecutive losing season, they once again look to be in rebuilding mode. Many questions remain unanswered entering the 2016 season as the team is under new management and a new coaching staff.

It is still unknown how patient new Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown will be with first-year head coach Hue Jackson and the Browns’ young roster. If history is any indication, one would surmise that Jackson and the Browns must put it together reasonably quickly, however many Browns fans have faith that this time, matters will be conducted differently.

Although there is a lot of promise with the hiring of this offensive-minded former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, there is a certain amount of skepticism which comes with any new Browns coach. This reluctance naturally lowers expectations coming into 2016, therefore changing Browns fans’ outlook on the coming season. As a result, fans will more likely be pleasantly surprised with wins, and not quite as heartbroken with losses.

Most Browns fans have been through enough to set realistic expectations, but they still recognize the potential of this young team. Knowing that a six or seven-win season may only be possible under ideal conditions, it may seem difficult to get excited about this coming season. Still, it is clear how passionate Browns fans are, and that a new beginning to a Browns season brings out the best in everyone. The Dawg Pound will undoubtedly be raring to go, as Browns fans always are.

The only question is, will losses sting as much due to the incredibly low expectations most Browns have for their beloved team? It will likely depend on many additional factors, which will vary from fan to fan. Some fans will buy in to the national media’s very negative outlook on the season and feel not at all surprised after disappointing losses. Likewise, many fans will assess the organization on their own and come to a similar conclusion.

Regardless of the expectations, losses will always be somewhat disappointing to fans. But if Browns fans can find hope this season, even in the losses which will likely occur, there will be a sense of optimism moving forward into 2017. If the team can achieve more victories than anticipated, fans will certainly have something to be excited about.

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But even if the Browns have another difficult season, fans will look for positives in certain players, considering their improvements as a silver lining. If players can give fans reason to believe, losses will be easier to deal with in 2016.

After all, the Browns did finish 3-13 in 2015, and the expectations entering 2016 are about as low as the bottom of Lake Erie. Plus, in the wake of a basketball championship in Cleveland, the pressure to end the 52-year championship drought is in the rear view mirror. This, coupled with a baseball team that could quite possibly make a deep run in October, may make another losing season easier to swallow for many.

The common denominator when it comes to Browns fans no matter what, is their relentless passion for the organization. What has yet to be seen though is how these die-hard fans will approach 2016, and if their outlook on the season will have any impact on how they take losses.

Next: Can Browns capitalize on championship vibe?

As is normally the case when covering Cleveland sports, the only way to find out is to wait and see. Nothing usually goes as planned in Cleveland. What is the best way to look at 2016, Browns fans? Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.