We are now well into 2017, which means that the Cleveland Browns putrid season is behind us. There is an entire offseason where the HBT look to continue to build a foundation and perhaps our hope that the team can one day be competitive again. For now, let’s just hope the Browns front office is able to find some veterans and draft picks who can help our team.
We set the tone for 2017 as the WFNY staff hands out some resolutions to many members of the Cleveland Browns.
What New Year’s resolution would you give Jimmy Haslam?
Craig: I would tell Jimmy Haslam to focus on self-awareness most of all. It’s important in life to recognize the things that you don’t know. It seems like Haslam has done this by hiring Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, Hue Jackson and Andrew Berry. It will be important for him to keep in mind the things he doesn’t know and also to remind each member of his leadership team to remember the same. Sashi Brown is the captain bringing all the info together, but he doesn’t have Hue Jackson’s perspective on coaching or Andrew Berry’s perspective on scouting.
Joe: Patience is a virtue. Please do not make knee jerk decisions. Allow the current front office and coaching staff to work together and do their job this offseason. Give them an opportunity to succeed.
Michael: Resolve to be patient. Black Monday came and went without a whole new slew of firings, so continuing on that path seems prudent. Heck, Ray Horton’s defense looked better down the stretch despite no real safety talent (let’s ignore Chris Tabor who did his best to save his job with a field goal block in our only win of the season). The organizational structure appears to be holding up, so allowing the people to execute the plan is needed. After three-to-four years, Haslam should know if he needs to pivot.
Or, we could fire the entire defensive staff and bring in Gregg Williams. Williams has had some decent success (compared to Horton especially), so possibly just taking advantage of circumstances there.
Josh: Be hands-off, like he has been for much of this past season. Allow the new front office and coaches to do their thing leading up to the draft (and beyond) and don’t get too involved, or involved whatsoever.
Scott: Continue remaining invisible. If there is any silver lining to this 1-15 season, it never felt like Haslam was pulling the strings. Whatever that meeting was during the bye seemed to invoke a lot of confidence in Hue Jackson, something that would not have been the case in years past. I feel like we owe Dee Haslam a lot of the credit for this, but Jimmy just staying in the background has been a nice surprise.
Pat: Stick to the plan. Don’t get antsy. Don’t get frustrated. You have the youngest team in the NFL and you’re clearly rebuilding, so for the love of everything holy, please let the Harvard Brain Trust proceed with their plan and give them a chance to see it come to fruition. You’re going to take a lot of barbs from the media who represent an impatient fan base, but you’re just going to have to take those lumps for now. Don’t change the head coach either. Continuity is key.
Dave: Sit on your hands. Don’t do anything. Bring those Flying-J burritos over to Pilot locations as well.
What New Year’s resolution would you give the Harvard Brain Trust of Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, and Andrew Berry?
Craig: Find that quarterback. Resolve to try many different things from the draft to free agency. Some mocked Washington when they drafted Kirk Cousins in the same draft where they took RG3. Now Cousins has the gig and is due big money. That’s not necessarily ideal for Washington because there are questions about how good Kirk Cousins can be, but they’re better off for having drafted him in the first place, that’s for sure. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Kessler, RG3, a first round draft pick, maybe Garoppolo and a draft pick as well in a Matt Flynn / Russell Wilson redux. I’m not saying to be stupid about it and miss out on filling other spots on the roster, but there’s only one position that almost single-handedly determines the ceiling of your franchise long-term. You need one of the top five guys at that position in the league.
Joe: Trust your information and staff. In the past, we have seen the decision makers for this team go away from their information and staff’s opinion for a different choice, like with the drafting of Johnny Manziel. Let the fact and evaluations speak for themselves.
Michael: Resolve to spend some money in free agency. No one is expecting the 2017 Browns to make the playoffs. However, another season where they purposefully assemble a team with obvious holes and no depth should not be tolerated either. Find a few veterans to plug some holes in the roster so that the young players you want to develop can do so in an environment that allows for it.
Josh: After gutting the team and winning just one game this season, there’s no excuses in 2017. While the playoffs are definitely a reach, the Browns must win at least four or five games next season and continue to build and develop. Also, the upcoming draft is very important. Whether it’s the scouting department or analytics, there can’t be too many misses, especially with the early picks. Oh, and can you please, please find a franchise quarterback. With all the salary cap, you should be able to find plenty of talent both in the draft and in free agency.
Scott: At least six wins in 2017, while showing additional upside potential. Going 6-0 and then losing out won’t lead too many folks to have confidence heading into Year 3. And no matter what anyone says, if there is another season that looks remotely like what fans dealt with in 2016, they’re all gone. There is no three-year plan if it looks like a disaster two years in. Do whatever you need to do to get to 6-10 in 2017. No excuses.
Pat: Accumulating high draft picks is a great plan, but at some point recognize that you won’t have the space on the roster to take in 10-15 rookies each year. In fact, that point should really be after next season. I don’t want to see talented young guys pushed off of the roster too quickly, and I don’t want to see useful veterans ousted from the locker room. We need their voices and their leadership.
Dave: Don’t listen to the haters. Follow your plan. I want you to get fired if your plan doesn’t work, not because you compromised on it.
What New Year’s resolution would you give Hue Jackson and his coaching staff?
Craig: Don’t be resistant to change. You have to do the things that you’ve done to get you the job in the first place, but remember that not every situation is the same. If you can’t create a typical situation to what you’re used to, you must be willing to be malleable and mold your strategy to the players you do have.
Joe: Improve your play calling. Hue Jackson’s offensive play calling needs to be better next season. Whether he gives the duties to one of his assistants or he just improves his own decision making, the Browns offense needs to have a better flow and play calling. Run the ball more!
Michael: Resolve to be bold. Find ways to improve the offense, defense, and special teams from wherever you can. Hunt through high school, college, and other NFL teams plays, sets, and ideas. Then, make them your own. Find innovative ways for the players to learn, to develop off the field, and to have their bodies prepared for the rigors of the NFL season. The coaching is the second biggest NFL differentiator to the quarterback, so help be a positive on the ledger.
Josh: Hue: Continue to develop your quarterback. Whether he is currently on the team or not, get your guy and do your best to make him the best quarterback Cleveland has had since 1999. For the rest of the staff: With such a young team, continue to prove that your players are showing development and only getting better while winning games as well.
Scott: For Hue: Put that challenge flag in a more accessible place. For the rest of the coaching staff, I’m going to wait to see who’s still in Cleveland as I’m still not sold on Ray Horton or Chris Tabor being a part of the plan going forward.
Pat: Figure out how to protect your quarterbacks better, and that may mean a lot of focus on the quarterback position itself. Browns quarterbacks took way too many hits this season, and I believe we saw more injuries at that position over the course of the 2016 season than at any other time in Cleveland Browns history. Regardless of who is the starter to open the 2017 season, make sure he understands that the ball needs to come out of his hand faster without sacrificing the turnover margin. Make sure that the offensive line, tight ends, and running backs are well-schooled on every play and ready to perform as a cohesive unit.
Dave: Hue, don’t let this year of losing make you think you aren’t up to the task. You’ll get there. Also tell every return man to take the touchback.
If you could give a resolution to one offensive player, then who would it be and what would you give them?
Craig: I would tell Cam Erving to go see LeCharles Bentley. I’ve already given up hope that Erving will live up to his draft position, but none of that matters now. Erving is fighting to be one of the NFL draft picks that earns a second contract in the league. Mitchell Schwartz didn’t look perfect from the moment he stepped on the field. Granted, Cam Erving has a lot more to improve upon than Schwartz did, but if there’s a position that I think a player can improve steadily over time, it’s offensive line. Erving has an opportunity to earn that second contract, but he better not waste the off-season. So maybe go see LeCharles?
Joe: I would tell Corey Coleman to work his ass off at being a receiver and improving his receiving skills. He needs to watch tape of the best receivers in the league and learn the intricate details that can help him gain advantage as a receiver. He has all the talent in the world, but receiving skills still need some tuning.
Michael: Corey Coleman: Resolve to complement Terrelle Pryor and commit to becoming a legitimate threat. The Browns offense could be lethal (assuming the OL is addressed) if Coleman can learn to run routes at a NFL efficiency. Having Coleman and Pryor give defenses different looks on opposite sides of the field could then open things up for Gary Barnidge, Isaiah Crowell, and Duke Johnson as well. The biggest unknown of the non-quarterback skill spots is still Coleman.
Josh: TP: While I agree with everything Scott says below, don’t think you can slack off once you get your big contract this offseason, Terrelle. Continue to get better, whether it’s your route running, hands, or blocking; you can always get better. Don’t let that big paycheck make you lazy.
Scott: Terrelle Pryor: Continue to get better. You outperformed all expectations this past season, but this was gravy based on your compensation. You’re going to get paid in the coming months and you’re going to have to live up to that new salary. Continue to work on your feet. Continue to work on your hands. Watch video of guys like Mike Evans and AJ Green and attempt to replicate where they position themselves on the outside. Take it all to the next level.
Pat: Joel Bitonio: Find a way to stay healthy. I don’t know how it will happen, but you are such a dominant force when healthy and the Browns need to know that they can write you in as a starter every week. Go visit a shaman. Go visit a holy man. Take a trip to Germany. Just get it done.
Dave: Josh McCown. Please retire. Please. For the sake of your life and well being. Retire. Please.
If you could give a resolution to one defensive player, then who would it be and what would you give them?
Craig: I’m going to create a resolution for Briean Boddy-Calhoun to not feel like he’s arrived just yet. The young man took a huge first step into the NFL, but if he forgets his own story coming out of nowhere and thinks he’s got a spot locked up next year, he’s begging to get passed by the next version of himself. Enjoy the early success and then be fearful that it won’t last. Work in this off-season like you didn’t show much of anything in 2016. You’ll be better off for it.
Joe: I would tell Jamie Collins to sign back with the Browns. Collins can be the leader of the defense for years to come. He just needs to sign back with the team. Please come back and trust the team’s direction.
Michael: Christian Kirksey: Resolve to be an elite linebacker. Kirksey thrived once paired with Jamie Collins late in the season. If the Browns can re-sign Collins, then Kirksey needs to continue to develop and make the jump to be a true elite playmaker. The Browns have struggled mightily in their linebacking corps since their return to the NFL in 1999, but there is a glimmer of hope it could change between Emmanual Ogbah, Kirksey, Collins, and Myles Garrett (pending being drafted No. 1 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft).
Josh: Danny Shelton. With what the Browns are expected to do with the No. 1 pick and already having Emmanuel Ogbah on the line with you, you three could have a chance to be something special. Get stronger. Work on your technique. And, even if your defensive backs struggle at times, get in the opponent’s backfield. Opposing backfields should be scared to face a defensive line like yours.
Scott: I want to say Joe Haden, but I’m skeptical that he will be on the Browns next season. Instead, we’ll go with Emmanuel Ogbah to be the perfect counter to what will hopefully be Myles Garrett. It will be impossible for offensive lines to block both players over the course of an entire game. Wreak havoc, young man.
Pat: Emmanuel Ogbah: Work hard on those pass rush moves! You need to make your repertoire a little more diverse, but once you do the whole world will be put on notice. Your raw ability is so incredible that it led you to 5.5 sacks in your first season. Your sack numbers will explode once you add some counter moves and work on your technique. Go figure out where Bruce Smith is eating his next meal and make it a point to “run into” him there.
Dave: Jamie Collins. Resolve to stay here in Cleveland please.
What is your own personal New Year’s resolution as a Browns fan/writer?
Craig: I’m resolving to stick to my guns and not renew my season tickets. I believe in the plan going forward, but I need to take a year off and deserve to take a year off from that expense. The PSL’s were systematically decimated in terms of value. Then the tickets themselves hit rock bottom and cost us dearly in a season where we couldn’t even give them away. It’s so hard for me to not pull that trigger, so I’m putting it in writing so my vote is public.
Joe: My personal resolution as a Browns writer/fan is to not get caught in the offseason hype. Evaluate the team as it is and do not project so much on what could happen. Rely on the facts and do not get too caught up in potential.
Michael: I resolve to be patient, hopeful, and optimistic while still being capable of viewing the team through a critical lends. I resolve to treat other fans and media with respect even when we differ greatly in opinion. I resolve to utilize snark more for humor than for tearing others down. And, I resolve to try these resolutions again each time I completely fail.
Josh: While the Browns will always be my favorite NFL team, my fanhood was tough this season, especially when there were days that I just wish I had NFL Redzone. I hope it pays off at some point, but watching a team that was that bad was tough on the eyes. That said, I don’t have much of a resolution.
Scott: I don’t think I have one, to be honest. I’m going to continue to make this team earn everything. I’ll continue to not pay for tickets. I’ll continue to not buy merchandise. I’ll continue to root for wins over draft position. I’ll continue to support Hue Jackson and Joe Thomas. That’s where it ends. Everyone else in that building still has a lot to prove. A new year won’t change this.
Pat: My personal resolution is to keep the optimism flowing. It is really easy to get negative about a young team that struggles to put it all together on the field and has been historically awful, but I want to be a person who can help keep other fans/writers focused on the future. Even if the Browns kept the exact same team next year, they would improve just due to the fact that the team is so very young and had so much to learn in their first year with Hue Jackson and his coaching staff. Sunnier days are ahead, and I want to be the voice that reminds everyone of that.
Dave: The Browns are my team. My support for that team is bigger than a coach, a front office man, or even an owner. Jerry Seinfeld tried to reduce it to “rooting for laundry” but we all know it is more than that. Trying to teach an organization a lesson will get you no where. So I’m going to get excited for the draft, excited for training camp, excited for pre-season and excited for the season. Go Browns!