Cleveland Browns: Is a poor 2016 really the worst thing?

Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson yells to the team during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson yells to the team during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns may need to lose in 2016 to set up the franchise to win in the future, which may not be the worst thing.

Cleveland Browns fans are different from most NFL fans.

For starters, there is no questioning our loyalty to the Orange and Brown. How else to explain that Browns nation continues to come back each year for a team that has only posted one winning season since 2003 and perhaps best known for having an “Under Construction” sign bolted on team headquarters in Berea.

Fans of other teams, think the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, spend their summers dreaming of playoff appearances and Super Bowl runs. Browns fans? Well, our dreams are a little less ambitious as we just hope to see some competitive, non-embarrasing football come Sundays in the fall.

The perceptions surrounding the Browns are slowly starting to change, however, thanks to a solid (if not spectacular) draft class and the hiring of head coach Hue Jackson. The off-season moves have even led some to believe that, if all goes well, there could be “11 winnable games” on the schedule this fall.

If Jackson could somehow pull that off, not only would he be a unanimous choice as Coach of the Year but the NFL would simply retire the award because no one would ever top that feat.

While this is the season of optimism in the NFL, the Browns may struggle to win half that number of games, let alone 11 this fall. (A mark that has only been hit four times by a Browns team since 1965, by the way.)

But that might not be such a bad thing.

Much of the optimism surrounding the Browns falls primarily on the shoulders of three people, and while it is nice to be positive, fans may be asking too much of Jackson, quarterback Robert Griffin III and defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

Jackson, for all the positive energy he brings to the organization, has only one year of head coaching experience and he was just 8-8 in that lone season. He has done a lot of good work over the years as a coordinator, but Browns fans are all too familiar with seeing talented coordinators not work out as head coaches.

Griffin, for all the talk about how good he was as a rookie and how is still “only 26 years old,” has major flaws in his game that may not be easily or quickly correctable. While everything that went wrong in Washington may not be his fault, expecting a change of scenery to solve all his problems may be nothing more than a nice fiction.

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Horton, as Browns fans will remember from 2013, loves to talk about how great his defense is, but when the fourth quarter rolls around a different story emerges.

Every time the Browns start over the new regime comes in an preaches patience, which has become a four-letter word to fans. But that is the reality of situation. While the new guys can’t be held accountable for the problems that preceded them, they are responsible for fixing the mess.

It would certainly be exciting to see the Browns come out this fall and have an unexpectedly exciting season like the one we all saw in 2007. Of course, the excitement of 2007 quickly faded in the reality of 2008 and the Browns need to be focused on being more than a one-year wonder.

The Browns laid down a solid foundation in this year’s draft and have a prime opportunity to add to that in next year’s draft. They hold their own first-round pick as well as the first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, who are set up to have a poor year this fall. With the potential of having two of the first five picks next spring, the Browns could pull off a franchise-changing draft – perhaps a Deshaun Watson and Myles Garrett two-fer?

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We certainly wouldn’t expect the Browns to go out and tank the season this fall, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they were not upset with a competitive, but ultimately poor, season. Another losing season will be frustrating, but the short-term pain could offer a long-term payoff.

Maybe by losing in 2016, the Browns will finally find the path to winning.