The Cleveland Browns have been a dysfunctional franchise for far too long, but head coach Hue Jackson said that may be a thing of the past.
It would be hard for even the most optimistic of Cleveland Browns fans to say that the team has been anything other than a mess since returning to the NFL in 1999.
Only two winning seasons out of the past 18; one playoff appearance, which came 15 years ago; double-digit losses in all but two of the past 14 seasons; eight full-time head coaches; several failed first-round draft picks and more quarterbacks than anyone should have to remember.
In other words, it hasn’t been pretty. (Just like the team’s current uniform set.)
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But Browns fans may have finally seen the bottom of what once seemed like a bottomless well of despair as the team has been making slow, but steady, progress ever since promoting Sashi Brown to the position of executive vice president of football operations and hiring Hue Jackson as head coach.
In the past 15 months the Browns have rebuilt the team through a foundational draft in 2016 and what could prove to be an exceptional draft in 2017 – with more to come in 2018 as the Browns hold a pair of picks in both the first and second round of the draft.
Cleveland was also strategic in free agency this year with the additions of offensive linemen JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler, along with re-signing linebacker Jamie Collins.
Of all the moves that the franchise has made, the most important may be the ongoing work to clean out former general manager Ray Farmer’s mistakes and improve not only the talent on the field but also the culture surrounding the team.
It’s a topic that Jackson addressed this week, according to the team’s website:
"“I think the culture is so strong in our locker room that there’s a way we do things and what the expectation is and I don’t have to talk about that anymore, the players do it. And I think that’s when you know you’re on your way, and that’s what it’s going to be like when the new guys walk in the building."
"“It won’t be me talking about it. I think these guys have committed to a standard that they truly believe in, that they believe is going to give us a chance to get this turned around.”"
Gone are the days of Johnny Manziel blowing off his rookie season or spending a game weekend in Las Vegas, of Justin Gilbert doing his own thing, and $9 million contracts to aging and disinterested veterans like Dwayne Bowe.
Now everyone is accountable and expected to act like a professional – both on and off the field. (Sorry to those Browns fans who still think Josh Gordon has a place on this team.) Having those clear expectations and accountability is crucial as this is a young team that is going to have to grow together and continue to learn what it takes to win at the professional level.
It has been evident for a while that things are changing with the Browns and Jackson’s comments put words to what everyone has been seeing.
It’s a refreshing step in the right direction and another crucial one on the road back to respectability for the franchise.