Fans were expecting something more exciting, but what they saw was the same thing they saw last season: QB Brandon Weeden be ineffective, wide receivers drop passes and CB Buster Skrine get torched.
In an article earlier this week, I said that the talent level on the roster is the same as last season and that you’re not going to win many games until you improve it. I still believe that to be true.
But I do think they have a major upgrade at coaching. They have a couple of strong offensive minds in head coach Rob Chudzinski and in coordinator Norv Turner. They also have a proven defensive coordinator in Ray Horton. And while talent wins games in the NFL, coaching matters, too.
If, hypothetically, Weeden can’t make the throws or WR Greg Little can’t run the routes, all the schemes in the world are not going to do much good. Turner’s ability at OC stops when the plays go into the huddle.
And while the fans love to rip apart Weeden in particular and the offensive line, there is something to keep in mind: These guys are NFL-caliber players. They are good enough at what they do to make millions of dollars doing it.
I’m not saying on an NFL scale that they are great players. But they are some of the best in the world. I know fans like to think that they know everything, but NFL front offices and coaching staffs know more. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but it’s very true.
Maybe Weeden can”t make all of the throws and maybe Little can’t catch all of the passes, but they can still execute most of the time. Beaten down by watching so much awful football over the last 10-plus years, Browns fans have no patience for rookies. But being new means that adjustments are going to have to come.
I believe that the coaching staff will make those adjustments. They may not be new to the NFL, but they’re new to this team and these players. Yes, they took a punch in the mouth on Sunday. The offense looked stagnant and you just can’t blame everything on the right side of the line. But the coaching staff is learning what they really have.
Preseason football is a chance for some guys to get in reps and other guys to try making the team. Teams run vanilla offenses and defenses, and it’s hard to really gauge what you have in the starters.
If you look at the first two weeks of any NFL season, you’ll see a lot of bizarre things. Crazy upsets. Over-the-top performances. NFL coaches are getting their first real look at their teams and at the teams they have to face. By Week 3, the games start looking more normal. Why? Coaches are figuring it out.
So will the Browns coaches. I expect we’ll see something a little better in this week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. And in a few games, you’ll see something even better. I still say this team only wins six games, but you will see more of what you were expecting to see.
Some Browns fans thought this team would contend for the AFC North title. That sort of optimism is part of what being a fan is all about. The fans’ thinking was that the Pittsburgh Steelers are bad (they are), Baltimore was depleted (they were) and the Cincinnati Bengals are… well, Cincinnati (true).
But also, Cleveland is Cleveland and this team is not as good as fans wanted to believe. For those who were looking for 8-8 or 9-7, there is going to be the annual Browns disappointment.
But in no way do I believe that the team you saw stumble around against the Dolphins will be the team you’ll watch for the remainder of the season. I think you’ll see them beat up on bad teams, struggle against mediocre teams and lose to the good teams. Yes, there’ll be upsets in either direction, but that’s life in the NFL.
Browns fans, like the coaches, you too are getting a real look at what you have. It may not be as pretty as you had hoped, but it won’t be as ugly as it was Sunday. Sit back, relax and enjoy the season. It’ll be over before you know it.