Name something the Cleveland Browns did well in 2015. Go ahead. Name something. I’ll wait. To be fair, I guess they do charity work and you could find plenty of cases where guys have given their time or money to the community and that’s not something we’d ever question at this website, but… (There’s always a but when you’re talking about the Browns, isn’t there?) As I was saying, BUT, this is a sports website dedicated almost exclusively to the team activities related to competing on the field and when you look at them — all the laughable team activities — in totality, you’d be hard-pressed to find one single thing that went well for the Cleveland Browns related to their primary business in professional sports.
Let’s go through this chronologically, shall we?
History actually smiles a bit on Kyle Shanahan’s departure from the Cleveland Browns with the benefit of hindsight. It helps his case that he landed in Atlanta where he was able to put up video game numbers with Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Devonte Freeman for the first half of his first season with the Falcons. And sure, the fall-off of the team and it’s offense after starting 6-1 will give some Browns fans some weird sense of schadenfreude, but here’s to digressions.
When Shanahan treated Berea like his own personal Alcatraz, the way in which Shanahan executed his departure was so petulant and immature, what with the 32-point PowerPoint presentation and the timing that had him basically going behind Mike Pettine’s back while he was on vacation, it was hard to see his side.
Once the icky shock of those circumstances wear off, you’re left with the sourced reports that Shanahan and the coaches hated that Johnny Manziel was foisted on them in the 14th game against Cincinnati and that most in the coaching ranks didn’t think they could win with Manziel. Of course, part and parcel with that revelation was the detail that Shanahan and his fellow coaches believed that some in the front office were sending texts during games… to the sidelines. Oh yeah and that’s against the rules.
We’ll get there, but because these are the 2015 Cleveland Browns, we have some other business to attend to first.
It’s almost unfair to put this in because no team can raise ticket prices and have it be popular. There’s something special about a Cleveland Browns team finally raising prices after having a year good enough to kind of justify it and have that be a seven-win losing season. It goes to show how bad things have been and how low fan expectations are that this didn’t go over as poorly as anticipated. Even on my own part, this one is more of a hindsight criticism because I kind of understood the Browns raising prices. They hadn’t done so in seven years and in a league with inflationary revenue projections in every phase, the Browns really were behind schedule because the team had been so bad. Of course, all that “understanding” was erased and became a punching point for fans who were forced to watch an awful team lose a lot of football games all season long while the front office fought with the coaching staff.
While I understand going to rehab is a positive thing, the fact that someone needs to go to rehab — especially your first round pick after his disastrous rookie season — is not a good sign. Also with the luxury of hindsight, it’s easy to see that even with Johnny Manziel’s willingness to address his issues, it would be something he would struggle with even after finishing his stint. This isn’t the last time we’ll see Manziel in this year’s list.
I could have put January 2 as the date of this because that’s when Josh Gordon went on a private plane with his teammates and a coach to Las Vegas and had those fateful four alcoholic drinks. You see, Gordon didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to drink after the NFL season had ended. He found out the hard way as the league gave him notice that he had four hours to submit to a test, which he ultimately failed. The receiver — one of the Browns’ only weapons capable of giving fans hope — was both a distraction and no longer any possibility to help a team that was due to need all manner of help it could possibly get.
I could belabor this by taking you through the defiant letter that Josh Gordon wrote to his detractors or the positive place he seems to be in now having worked with Randy Moss’ receiver camp this summer, but this post has the potential to be a book if I don’t exercise a little bit of restraint.
Ray Farmer was guilty, admitted it in the wake of Kyle Shanahan’s revelatory exit from the Browns and all that was left to do was wait and see what the punishment was going to be. Tom Petty had some words of wisdom about waiting and after going through this Roger Goodell roundabout with Ray Farmer’s texting investigation, Tom Petty might as well be an amalgamation of Gandalf, Dumbledoor, Solomon, and Charles Xavier.
As Browns fans heard about potential sanctions including loss of draft picks, the days flowed by slower than the final games of a three-win Browns season with four games left. Despite the fact that Ray Farmer ended up only being suspended four games and the Browns kept all their picks, the vicissitudes of waiting from early February until the very end of March were agonizing.
The Cleveland Browns wanted to update the brand of the team. They wanted new jerseys and they wanted to pump some new life into the merchandise, so they set about on a process — including focus groups — to change some things. In late February the team revealed its first changes with a lot of hype, which in hindsight was a mistake. The Browns modest change to the logo — updating the dog logo and using a slightly different shade of orange — dropped into the modern news cycle as a ready-made meme to mock the team.
BREAKING: New Cleveland Browns logo revealed pic.twitter.com/Dig4FXI2NX
— Shooter McGavin (@ShooterMcGavin_) February 24, 2015
And let’s be honest: The Browns went through a largely smart process. They engaged fans in focus groups. They decided to not alter the logo as much as just updating the colors a little bit. They really played to what Browns fans seem to be about. Their mistake was to embarrass themselves and their fans by making such a big deal about the release of such modest changes. A mistake they would repeat with the gigantic party used to unveil the new uniforms.
Look: This was a fun event for fans, but it still didn’t work. This event didn’t work for the team. It was just awkward. Check out the video of the players removing some wacky orange cloaks.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) April 14, 2015
On the bright side, the uniform reveal party at least gave us the chance to grab pictures of Dwayne Bowe in a uniform. It’s literally the only Bowe-New Browns image in our library.
Ray Farmer’s 2015 draft class was lauded outside of the puzzling decision to draft a backup offensive lineman in the first round. But, Ray Farmer’s refusal to address or even acknowledge an issue at wide receiver in the draft was the most damaging. His reasoning was laid out when he said “I know everyone says I’m stubborn or I’m going to be abstinent about this wide receiver position but I just think that, at the end of the day, an offensive line affects every single play of the game. A wide receiver may touch the ball 10 times if he’s having a great day so I just like the idea of let’s get the guys that affect the game all the time and let’s try and get those guys and make a difference for our football team.”
But, having the only wide receiver draft pick Farmer selected in two seasons, fourth-round pick Vince Mayle, not be able to make the final cut after his first preseason was a huge blow to the team and the credibility of his statement.
Not a giant ordeal, but you know, an ordeal with Johnny Manziel nonetheless. Even Manziel’s staunchest defenders get tired of finding reasons why the man at the center of the wrong kind of action all the time is somehow not at fault. After a while, you have to think there’s no such thing as good or bad luck. Sure, occasionally good things happen to bad people or bad things happen to good people, but largely you make your own luck. Is it all Johnny Manziel’s fault that he finds himself in the wrong parts of the news? You wouldn’t wish a hermit life on anyone, but Manziel is largely responsible for every situation he puts himself in. File this away as you will.
This wouldn’t be anything negative except for what the Browns did later. The Browns signed Terrelle Pryor and suffered through his injuries in camp. After Ray Farmer went on his suspension, Pryor found himself cut for injured Robert Turbin, who was eventually cut by the Browns during the season after they waited for him to get healthy. Pryor was once again signed and received snaps in his second week back with the team while Dwayne Bowe remained on the roster and notoriously uncut.
Can Dwayne Bowe still play football or not? All we really know is that he doesn’t play football much for Mike Pettine’s Browns in 2015 despite the fact that they don’t have a lot of receivers capable of standing taller than Hobbits. No doubt Dwayne Bowe’s career is no longer on the rise, but it remained inexplicable how a guy could sign a deal like that paying him $9 million guaranteed without subsequently giving him any opportunity to earn that money. Dwayne Bowe has served to “expose” Ray Farmer for making bad free agency decisions and also Mike Pettine for how impossible it is to get out of his dog house.
As I write this the Browns have won three games and played about as uninspired a season as we’ve seen the team put together since their inaugural in 1999. Seats have grown warmer as head injuries and DNPCDs piled up with big-name free agents and high draft picks. The lowlight thus far was a signature loss to Baltimore via blocked field goal return on the last play of the game. Losing is bad but losing like that is pure murder.
And that’s enough, really. There’s nothing else to say. You can grab an isolated note here and say that I’m nitpicking just like you can pick out something like Gary Barnidge or Travis Benjamin to try and find a silver lining. This Browns team has been a disaster for an entire year and it’s reasonable to argue that nothing — from player acquisition, to business, to coaching, to playing — has worked out for them.
It’s almost impressive. Almost.
See you next year, Browns.