The Cleveland Browns franchise has a rich history and has been a part of significant moments in the NFL. The Browns played the New York Jets in the first official ABC Monday Night Football on September 21, 1970. From the ‘Kardiac Kids’ era of the early-1980s to their playoff match-ups against the Denver Broncos in the latter part of the decade, the Browns gained the attention of football fans across the league for almost a decade. A promising playoff win in 1994 against the New England Patriots quickly became a distant memory as Art Modell announced that the team would re-locate to the city of Baltimore. The fight to keep the history, statistics, and identifying trademarks of the team in Cleveland was a bittersweet win as the city did not know when, or if, anyone would again wear the orange helmet.
We are entering the 15th season of the Browns re-emergence into the NFL. A lack of success has exhausted the patience of players, coaches, executives and fans A second half collapse in their playoff loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2002 season was a confusing end to a solid season. A 2008 record of 4-12 following an entertaining 10-6 2007 season has made fans weary of any success. The proposed protest of a game during the 2009 season divided fans and the team’s consistent state of change leaves the franchise vulnerable to criticism. When Tom Heckert was hired by Mike Holmgren, he expressed an understanding of the city and the history of the franchise. Heckert and Holmgren spoke of a five year plan, and certainly did not stall at the outset. Heckert worked to get the team in a competitive position and laid the foundation for establishing an identity. He was in the process of assembling a team with definable characteristics when he was dismissed.
As time passes, each new front office must ask themselves what they need to do in order to make an impression on fans who are young in their familiarity with the NFL. The Browns are often criticized in the media. A season ago, former analyst Michael Lombardi questioned the Browns decision to pick Brandon Weeden, as well as Josh Gordon (in the supplemental draft), and was then hired by the new Browns front-office. While this move makes some sense to the people signing the checks, it is a bit bewildering for fans. Lombardi is also remembered for his involvement with releasing former quarterback, Bernie Kosar, during the 1993 season. Gordon had a very solid rookie season, showing a lot of abilities and intangibles that many teams seek in a wide receiver. Every season teams have the opportunity to win over new fans, and one begins to wonder how this franchise looks to those without any prior frame of reference.
The current front office is left with a lot of good players to continue building the Browns. Ideally the coaches and front office members were hired with the idea of incorporating the current group of players into their plans for success and adding the appropriate players to the roster. Experienced coaches were brought in, a few coaches were retained, and the pass rush was quickly helped with the additions of Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant. It is now time to coach up the younger players, implement game plans, and win. Granted, everyone will be learning new systems on either side of the ball, but this staff is built to win this season. The free-agent pursuits were made with the draft in mind, and if the Browns manage to add an effective corner in free-agency, they are going to be a wild card at the number six position. In that situation they can trade down, pick the best player as opposed to picking based only on need, or just crowd their pass rush department with one of the draft’s outside linebacker prospects.
Right now the Browns looked poised to put pressure on the quarterback and run the ball. Identity emerges with consistent successful execution of a game plan or approach. The current roster and coaching staff are good components for putting together a winning team; no more resets are needed in Cleveland.
If their current corps of receivers lock in on Norv Turner‘s offense, Weeden will succeed. If they can get their linebackers in appropriate spots, the Browns defense will be able to stop the run. Success starts to come together when all these aspects of the game successfully compound. The Browns have some areas that they are building on, and the 2013 NFL draft is the next step to renewing interest in a storied franchise.