The Browns and the myth of a quick turnaround in the NFL

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Sammie Coates of the Cleveland Browns looks on during the NFL International Series match between Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns at Twickenham Stadium on October 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: Sammie Coates of the Cleveland Browns looks on during the NFL International Series match between Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns at Twickenham Stadium on October 29, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns are not looking for shortcuts in their latest rebuild, which is something fans should be happy about.

Cleveland Browns fans should be familiar with the path that the team is currently going down.

Every two years (or sometimes sooner) owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam fire everyone and start over. Fans and media members bemoan the lack of stability that envelopes the franchise. But then a year or so into the latest rebuilding efforts those same people get riled up because the rebuild is taking too long, which leads to more firings and the process starts over again.

Much of the complaining centers on the idea that the Browns should be able to accomplish a “quick turnaround like other NFL teams” are able to do.

But is there really such a thing as a quick turnaround in the NFL? Or is that narrative just a myth built on a mirage of one-year wonders?

Today, as the Browns sit at 0-8 for the second consecutive season and 1-23 under head coach Hue Jackson, many Browns fans would sign up for another season like 2007 in a heartbeat. That year the Browns rode a hot start, got just about every break imaginable, and finished at 10-6, the last winning season to date by the team.

Sounds pretty good, right? Until you then remember that the Browns crashed back to earth in 2008, finishing at 4-12 and setting off a chain of events that has seen the franchise employ five full-time head coaches in the past nine years.

The drop off from 2007 and 2008 by the Browns is something that you see frequently across the NFL. A team will get hot, there will be talk that they have “turned the corner” and then reality kicks in the following year.

Look, for example at the Arizona Cardinals, who were 13-3 in 2015, but have been a pedestrian 11-12-1 since then. Or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were a “franchise on the rise” after finishing last season at 9-7, but are now in the depths of a 2-6 season with quarterback questions and calls for the coaching staff to be fired.

That is now what Browns fans should want for the team.

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It is also time to let go of the fantasy that teams can turn things around in just one year, with the Los Angeles Rams being the perfect example.

The Rams are off to a 6-2 start this season under first-year head coach Sean McVay after finishing at 4-12 in 2016. We’ve heard complaints over “if the Rams can do it in one year, why can’t the Browns?” and that is simply nonsense.

This may be the first year for McVay in Los Angeles, the Rams have been selecting high in the draft for almost as long as the Browns have. Their turnaround has grown over the years as they have added pieces and was helped along by finally getting rid of Jeff Fisher as the team’s head coach.

It is naive to try and sell what the Rams are doing this season as the product of just one offseason. And no one will know for a few years if what they are doing this season is sustainable, or if they are just the latest version of the Josh McDaniels-led Denver Broncos, who started out 6-0 but then went 5-17 over the next 22 games before firing McDaniels.

Which leads us to one of the biggest takeaways from executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown’s press conference on Monday. The Browns are not looking to build a team that will win one year and then fall apart, but rather are working to create a team that will be a consistent winner, as he said via

"“Obviously, if we are racing to try to get as good as we can as fast as we can, then we would have a different strategy. That isn’t ours. We want to be sustainable. We are going to be good, and when we get there, we will be good for a long time.”"

Lost in all the noise over the team’s record is that the Browns were, in all reality, starting over completely in 2016. The failed draft picks of previous regimes — the disaster of Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi in 2013, the complete disaster of Ray Farmer in 2014 – left the Browns with virtually nothing to build on.

Rather than look for “quick turnarounds,” Browns fans should turn their eyes west to Oakland, where the Raiders have been systematically rebuilding the franchise under general manager Reggie McKenzie.

It took three years of hard losing — and an assist from Farmer – before the Raiders were able to turn things around. An injury to quarterback David Carr derailed things in 2016 and the Raiders are still working to find their way this season, but hard work of those 4-12 and 3-13 seasons seem to have been worth it.

The Browns still haven’t hit on their quarterback the way the Raiders – and possibly the Rams – did, but the foundation has been put in place in the past two drafts. The Browns are now poised to have a franchise-altering offseason in 2018, with cap space and draft picks in abundance.

Next: The competing views on Sashi Brown

The situation has been brutal since the start of 2016 and, at times, it has felt like it could not get any worse. But the Browns are reaching the end of the beginning of the rebuild and some of the hardest parts are already in the books.

To throw it all away now because some people lack the patience to see it through to the end would be simply foolish.