Happy Tuesday, WFNY!
And welcome to my first While We’re Waiting of 2017. I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season. I know I sure did. But today life pretty much returns to normal, so we are all “back to the grind”, as some might say.
I’m not a new year’s resolution guy. I’ve always sort of laughed at the whole thing. I have no problem with people making changes in their life, and I certainly believe in setting goals and using preparation to succeed in life. But you don’t need a relatively arbitrary thing like changing the number on a calendar and on your checks (do people still write checks in 2017?) to make changes and set goals.
But what the heck, let’s do some resolutions today. Why not, this is all for fun, right?
Me? I have an awful lot of inertia in my life that I need to get rid of. I have some goals for 2017 that, in order for me to achieve, I will have to make some changes. So that’s what I’ll be working on. But you guys aren’t here for me, you’re here for sports. So what about the sports teams we all follow and love? Let’s try to come up with some resolutions for them.
We’ll start with the easiest. For the Cavaliers, this is simple. Their number one resolution should be to not rest on past accomplishments. I’ll admit, I was somewhat worried about how the team would play this regular season. I was worried about the championship celebration fatigue. I was worried about Kyrie Irving playing a full season, all playoffs, then the summer Olympics, and pretty much right back to the Cavaliers training camp without a whole lot of down time. I thought the Cavaliers might be a little complacent.
But really, this Cavaliers team has truly impressed me with how hard they have played this season. They don’t look like a team that thinks they are better than they really are. Despite having a seemingly endless string of injuries, illness, personal tragedy, and scheduled rest days, the Cavaliers are sitting at 26-7, three games behind the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA. They rank 4th in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency.
The Cavaliers have truly been a galvanized team, solidified in their “next man up” mantra. That includes a guy like DeAndre Liggins, who has found a way to carve a role for himself on this team in filling in for JR Smith. He doesn’t replace JR’s shooting, obviously, but the Cavaliers simply make it work and have been relishing Liggins’ defensive stopper mentality.
Of all the Cleveland teams, this is the one we worry about the least. The only thing stopping Cleveland from a return to the NBA Finals is if this injury bug continues to spread. So resolution number two should be, simply, for the players to take care of their bodies. Stay healthy. The Cavaliers have already answered my concerns about complacent. It’s not an issue. Not on a team led by a focused and dialed-in LeBron James. He’ll have his guys ready to play. The only thing I worry about right now with this team is health.
My resolution for the Cleveland Indians is to ride the momentum. And, borrowing from the Cavaliers, it’s also to not rest on past accomplishments. Because unlike the Cavaliers, the Indians didn’t get the job done. There’s no room to be pleased with just getting there. The goal now for 2017 is to win the World Series.
The best way to do that is to just keep the positive franchise momentum going. The Indians made one of the best trades in all of baseball last year in trading for Andrew Miller. They rode his arm all the way through the playoffs. They tore through the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS in five games despite hitting .168 as a team. How? Quality pitching and simply riding their momentum from the ALDS.
The team made an incredible run to the World Series that was a lot of fun for all of us as fans and for them as players. Sure, they didn’t get the job done. But they built momentum and a level of excitement for this team that has not existed in Cleveland for many years. Then, they went out this offseason and landed the biggest bat in the free agent pool when they signed Edwin Encarnacion.
The Indians have a bad habit of coming out of the gate cold in April. If that happens again, the franchise cannot let that change the momentum they have right now. I strongly believe in momentum in sports, and right now the Indians have a healthy dose of it. But they can’t assume that now that they made it to the World Series and made a big move in the offseason that they can just show up and be right back to the World Series.
An awful lot of things had to go the Indians’ way to get to the World Series last year. Making it back is far from given. Sure, the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers have both represented the American League in the World Series in back-to-back years in recent memory, but other than that, you have to go back to the New York Yankees’ run of four straight World Series appearances in the late 90s and early 2000s. Making it to the World Series in consecutive seasons is really hard. For the Indians to get back there, they can’t pat themselves on the back and feel satisfied. They need to ride the momentum and keep pushing forward to get better in 2017.
Oh boy, where do we go from here? I mean, we could really simplify this and just say their resolution for 2017 should be to stop screwing everything up. Think about all the decisions this franchise has made since 1999, and do everything differently in 2017.
But we should deal in specifics here. Short of a resolution that involves Jimmy Haslam selling the team to an owner who knows what he is doing, resolution number one should be to build continuity in the front office. And not continuity for the sake of continuity, either. But continuity by giving the people there a chance to succeed and the rope to make mistakes by which to learn. That doesn’t mean guys can’t be fired and new guys can’t be brought in. It simply means to have a unified goal for the football team that permeates Berea. Call it core principles of football, if you will. But everyone needs to be on the same page and it needs to feed down to the coaching staff. This should be a franchise of one philosophy.
The next resolution should be to figure out how to draft better. It’s too early to judge the 2016 class with any kind of certainty, so I’ll reserve judgment there. But as a franchise, the Cleveland Browns just need to draft better. Somehow, some way. Figure it out. This has been a problem with the Browns for just entirely too long. I don’t know the why. I don’t know the how. But the Browns simply need to get more high-quality players out of the draft. I’m not talking about serviceable players. But I’m not talking about elite players, necessarily either (although some of those would sure help, too). The Browns just need impact players out of the draft.
Finally, and maybe the most important resolution yet, in 2017 the Browns need to really figure out what’s going on at QB. Maybe the front office does have a firm plan and we just haven’t seen that play out yet. But whether via free agency, trade, or draft, the Browns need to start getting some QBs to Cleveland who can play. The list of QBs who have started in Cleveland over the years is an absolute embarrassment.
I’m well aware that Tom Brady’s and Aaron Rodgers don’t grow on trees. You can’t draft a franchise QB if a franchise QB isn’t in the draft pool. Franchise QBs so rarely become free agents in their primes (Drew Brees is pretty much the only one that comes to my mind in recent years) and they aren’t often available via trade either. So I know it’s hard. I know the Browns can’t just snap their fingers and be done with it. But it also doesn’t change how important it is.
It’s time for the Browns to stop being such a joke to the NFL. It’s time for them to knock off all the nonsense and to start getting some things right. I like a lot of the people in place right now, and I like how hard this team played for Hue Jackson this season despite having so little top end talent on the roster. There are things to build on in Cleveland.
So those are my resolutions for the team. What about you guys? What would you make your resolutions for the Cleveland teams in 2017?