Crawling Closer to the End: Cleveland Browns Midway Winners and Losers

The 2017 Cleveland Browns have yet to win on the football field and have even been able to lose the bye week with reports of organizational turmoil continuing to surface in the aftermath of the trade for A.J. McCarron that wasn’t. Having quarterbacks selected with picks the front office has traded away in successive seasons thrive for other teams has not helped the optics in Berea. With the season now at the midpoint, the questions appear to be more revolving around who might remain with the franchise in 2018 than about the upcoming opponents. Regardless of your stance on the current rebuild, those are not the discussions any team strives to have in the forefront.

As the Browns prepare to attempt to somehow find an actual win that will register in the AFC North standings somewhere in their remaining eight games, here are the individual winners and losers from the Browns first half:

LOSER: Sashi Brown

To be a successful decision maker at the NFL level, not only do you have to extract value from your decisions, you have to execute upon said value, and do so at places of importance in a timely manner. “Winning” trades is something apologists cling to make themselves feel better about the shitstorm taking place on the other side of the wall. Obtaining a fourth defensive back for the cost of a fifth is all well and good, but you still need to find one-through-three. Fleecing teams for draft selections is great if the goal is simply to fleece other teams for draft selections. If it all takes place while those draft picks are not turned into anything that can improve a roster to a level of competitiveness in an era where parity is undeniable, well, you’re not successful.

Carson Wentz may not be the current odds-on favorite to be MVP had he been drafted by the Cleveland Browns, but he is undeniably a young, cost-controlled MVP-caliber quarterback who was passed upon due to: 1) An analysis that claimed he wasn’t going to be a top-20 quarterback in the league coupled with 2) a trade offer that allowed a rebuilding team to amass just what they were looking for in additional draft picks. The same could be said for DeShaun Watson who would have been the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year, potentially earning MVP votes himself. The only issue is, in the NFL, four quarters don’t make a dollar, and if you’re going to pass on selecting a quarterback, you better be damn sure in your analysis of said quarterback. Eric Mangini was dead on in his analysis of Mark Sanchez. His errors occurred in what he did with the picks he obtained in the deal. You can pretend that turning picks into “starters” was the right move—again, it’s simply a safety blanket of fan feelings. But whether it was free agency (i.e. Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz) or the draft (i.e. Carson Wentz or DeShaun Watson) The Cleveland Browns, under the guidance of one Sashi Brown, could not have been more wrong. The A.J. McCarron fiasco is simply icing on his horrible tasting cake.

LOSER: Hue Jackson

There’s a weird facet of people who feel they have to pick sides in some Sashi Brown-Hue Jackson debate is if this is some political game within the game, choosing to believe certain stories over others, or claiming some bizarre, binary tinfoil hat narrative that people are out to get one or the other. I’m here to tell you you’re all crazy and this can be both of their faults. Jackson has been provided powerless tools and warped boards and is being told to build a house. Jackson, rather than attempting to straighten out said boards and make the most of his tools, is mishandling the entire project, nailing a few boards together, only to take it all apart midway through and stare at the pile of lumber while his competition successfully builds their respective projects at various speeds. Jackson has every right to be frustrated that his front office has turned a bunch of cap space and draft selections into a receiving corps that would not be on any other NFL roster. Jackson also has to look in the mirror when it comes to abandoning the run and having two of his only playmakers (Duke Johnson Jr. and David Njoku) on the field for an ungodly low percentage of snaps. His house was never going to win an award, but the abovementioned shit is starting to rain down in buckets, and Hue doesn’t even have a roof nailed together. That’s on him.

WINNER: Myles Garrett

When healthy, this kid has been one of the very few highlights of the 2017 season. Already proving to be a force on a per-snap basis, the trick for the Browns will simply be keeping him healthy to ensure that snap count continues to rise.

WINNER: Jason McCourty

Easily the best thing to happen to the Browns this offseason (at least as it pertains to the first eight games), McCourty has come in and immediately provided value at an elite level. He’s already been banged up a bit, so replicating the first half is looking to be a bit of a challenge, but the Browns’ defensive improvements have a lot to do with McCourty patrolling one half of the field.

LOSER: Jabrill Peppers

This one is tough because it’s difficult to know how much is Peppers’ fault. Not only is he playing out of position, he’s playing completely off of the screen. Here’s hoping the second half finds a way to have this kid not just in the box, but attacking in a variety of ways. It’s tough to call a DB blitz for someone who is 35 yards off of the ball.

WINNER: Joe Thomas

What can be said that hasn’t already? Here’s hoping his new contract gets him to return for at least one more year with the orange and brown. I’m not ready for the era to be over.

LOSERS: DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, and Cody Kessler

Holy hell what a mess this has been. And to think that we came into Week 1 (and I guess even Week 2) with some excitement? Life comes at you fast.

LOSER: Gregg Williams

The run defense is improved — this can’t be denied. It’s clear that this scheme is a substantially better fit for the players on the roster than anything Ray Horton attempted to do a season ago. That said, the deep safety thing coupled with playing guys like Peppers out of position and the inability to cover the tight end continue to be maddening. It’s tough to ask for more in a statistical way, but we need more.

LOSER: Zane Gonzalez

Inexcusable. His misses — both from a field goal and extra point standpoint — are nothing but inexcusable.

WINNER: Duke Johnson Jr.

Please, Hue. If you do anything different over these final eight games, find a way to get the ball in this kid’s hands at least 15 times per game.

LOSER: Kenny Britt

How is he still on the roster?

TBD: Corey Coleman

Every time we think we’re seeing flashes of a first-round, game-changing draft pick, an unfortunate injury happens. He’ll be due back soon, and it could be argued that no player has move to prove over the final half of this season than Coleman. Is he worthy of his selection or is he just another guy in this dreadful receiving corps? Only he can decide.

Some other Browns first half thoughts from social media