Winless Bye Week Browns and their Fans Hanging in the Balance

Cleveland Browns Fans Bags
Matt Sullivan

The Cleveland Browns have a bye week and then four more chances to keep from going winless on the season. You will read thousands of jokes about the Browns losing the bye week, and they will be more caustic than ever before. There’s always some truth in comedy — even the trite variety — and the Browns really must find a way to win their bye week if they want to win a game this year. They must find a way to find health and chemistry and maybe just the tiniest bit of luck to avoid going 0-16.  The future of the team and its fanbase might be in the balance.

“I totally get where the fans are or what they are feeling,” Hue Jackson said following Sunday’s loss. “They deserve better and we get that. They deserve better, and I totally respect that. It is tough with the situation we are all in because everybody wants an answer.”

The plan wasn’t to win in 2016 and everyone knew it. The issue, however, arises from the notion that even a team that’s in it to be young and rebuilding doesn’t plan on going winless. Even by their own aggressive rebuilding standards, you have to think that Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Hue Jackson have missed their modest goal. I would call it a test of faith, but to think anyone should conjure up faith in the architects of this season is unrealistic. They might pull it off, but to project a bright future with no evidence feels foolish at best.

There’s no other choice, however. Between the front office and coaching staff missing their mark, ownership has given the entire organization no alternative. The Browns’ leadership has their back against the wall, and they need to fight their way out because there’s nobody else to help. When you fire as many people as Jimmy Haslam has fired in just over four years, it’s impossible to fathom another shakeup and subsequent talent search. We used to argue about the concept that nobody wanted a job with the Cleveland Browns because NFL jobs are such a finite thing. With each Berea bust-up it becomes more and more difficult to make the case that someone wouldn’t just turn the Browns down and wait for something better.

If you think the Browns can look for more people, just read this list since Haslam bought the Browns.1

This list hits just the high-level folks. For each one of them, there are multiple people — assistant coaches, for example — who lost their jobs in the wake of Jimmy Haslam’s Tennessee Titanic of an organization.2

Cleveland Browns fans are the ones left holding the bag. For the benefit of subsidizing the suck, they have had their stadium taken over and lost any sense of identity that tied the team back to an era they liked. Browns fans have seen losing, but looking at FirstEnergy Stadium this year it’s hard to argue that this time the sense of apathy and quit are amplified to levels we’ve never seen before.

Big Savings for Big Fans at Fanatics.comI was one of the people who said that uniforms didn’t matter that much, but I think I was wrong. More often than not I think the Browns look like a creamsicle or a bowl of sherbet. Imagery is powerful, and now that this team doesn’t visually approximate the team I grew up watching, I think it makes it easier to see how little any of this has to do with the history and tradition I revered as a kid. If it were a catchier name, I’d rename the team to the Cleveland Existential Crises because that’s what the team has done to all the fans I know.

I met a life-long Browns fan in Charleston, South Carolina over the Thanksgiving holiday who knew WFNY and pulled me aside for a Browns talk. He was hoping that I could give him some reason for hope or faith with what’s happening with the Browns. He’d given up on the Browns about a year ago, and his sole reason for giving up on the team was Jimmy Haslam and his habit of rash decision-making. I talked to him about some of the possibilities that could make you feel good about the future, but I felt like a dummy if I didn’t mute every bit of infinitesimal optimism that I invented as a possibility.

“When things do not go right, it is easy to point fingers at a lot of different people,” said Jackson. “The best place to point it is at me—I am the head of it. With our staff and even with them, the issues we have that anybody feels on offense, defense or special teams, that starts with me because I am responsible for it all. I am not one to pass the buck on anybody else. I am never going to do that. If anybody is looking for that, that is not going to happen. What I have to do is continue to coach this football team. We have to continue to get better. Next season or next year or this offseason, we will take care of ourselves about the things we need to do to continue to get better. We have what have right now, and we have to work through it that way and just keep going.”

That’s where we are as Browns fans. As fans of this team, we know their backs are against the wall. We know there’s no possibility of help arriving. We’ve fallen victim to the “savior complex” too many times before. We know they have no choice but to ride out at least three years with some combination of Sashi Brown, Hue Jackson, and staff.

Knowing this is far from comforting, however. Continuity is good, but not just for the sake of continuity. Continuity without results is akin to stupidity. The Browns have to prove something, and as of yet, they’ve failed to show anything positive. What we’ve seen this year is that even by their modest standards of rebuilding they miscalculated wildly unless you think they were considering losing all their games. And if potentially losing all 16 games was a possible part of the plan, then I don’t even know what to say.

Your NFL team isn’t supposed to leave you this speechless, but at least during the bye week it’s alright to not have anything to say. I’d also recommend holding your tongue before spouting off one of those “Browns lose the bye week” jokes that we all know are coming.

  1. I know you know the list front to back, but it’s important to see it again. []
  2. This, of course, does not apply to Chris Tabor. []

  • RGB

    How did I miss this?
    I have one locked and loaded for 0-16, but we’ve all seen it before. But, it’s so perfect. I’m torn.

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  • jpftribe

    Peyton has got to be tired of doing pizza and insurance commercials…….

  • jpftribe

    The math just doesn’t work. Let’s say the Browns net 4 or 5 average or better than average starters from the 16 draft. It takes them between 1 and 1.5 seasons to develop (Shelton, Ogbah, Nassib, Coleman are surely looking that way). They are five years away from competing. And some of those guys are on four year contracts.

    How do you establish a winning culture when you lose every game? What vets are showing these guys how to prepare and play everyday in the NFL? How do you attract quality FA’s that can help? How do you resign those guys on 4 year deals?

    I’m reading articles from the MSM that are openly questioning whether a few meaningless wins are worth jeopardizing draft position. You have got to be kidding me. Lose more games to draft more rookies to lose more games. But one day, magically, everything falls into place and you win a Super Bowl.

    FA destroyed a good offensive line and has put it in a constant state of flux. Tight Ends have abused this team because there is no personnel match up. Safeties are too small for run support and too inexperienced to play zone effectively. No speed at outside linebacker. And they are sitting on $50M in cap space, projected to be over $100M next year.

    Here’s a newsflash for Browns fans: Not every NFL FA is Bowe, Kruger or Whitner. Those are just the ones the Browns decided to sign. A competent NFL GM cannot ignore the FA market and build exclusively through the draft. It just doesn’t happen and never has in the modern era.

    Browns have played some very beatable teams this season. They field something competitive, take 2 from the Ravens and get three more wins, they are 5-7 and in a playoff hunt in a year when 8-8 could win the division. For my money, I’m taking that into 2017 to build on rather than 0-16 and the top pick in the draft.

  • Skulb

    The hope is that improvement will be very easy next season, if the Browns go 0-16. It’s like a twelve foot high limbo bar at the moment. I went through this with Gruden in Washington, when he went 4-12 his first season and many fans wanted him fired immediately. In my mind though, I was prepared to be content as long as there was improvement from year one to year two. So his bar was five wins for me in year two, which he of course greatly exceeded. Jackson’s should be four in 17, then seven in 18 and then 500 seasons or better from year four on. And I would stick with this level of expectation even if he does a lot better than four wins next year. Seven is still acceptable in year three even if he manages it next season.
    I said it this summer: squeamish Browns fans should tune out for the next two seasons, because it’s not going to be pretty. But I still believe that sticking with Jackson for the long haul is the right move. And now at least it can’t get any worse.

  • jpftribe
  • jpftribe

    I’m with you on Jackson and this staff. The FO is feeling like Groundhog Day though. There is hope that after this season’s debacle, Jackson lights a fire under them and Haslam to spend some cap money and field a decent team.

  • Hopwin

    Hue is NOT a rookie head coach.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good post SKULB.

  • tigersbrowns2

    well done HUM …

  • tigersbrowns2

    good morning , sir … technically , you are right … realistically , he may as well be a rookie HC , cuz he’s never had to go through something like this before & you can see it’s wearing on him … but he still cares & wants to win … i like him even more now.

  • tigersbrowns2

    good post …

  • RGB

    Spend cap money? SPEND CAP MONEY? Perish the thought!
    The Browns are currently #1 in cap space, and are set to be #2 in 2017, and 2018.
    As soon as they jettison Joe Haden they will be #1!!
    Cap Space Super Bowl Champions!

  • mgbode

    As noted, I do think you need to plug in veterans where needed and I think it was a huge mistake not re-upping Schwartz. There’s a balance and the FO needs to find it.

    If they treat every offseason like they did this last one where we let guys go and don’t sign anyone too, then yeah, it is not going to get better.

  • CBI

    Great post