What a sports mess: While We’re Waiting

Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

Tuesdays have been my day for While We’re Waitings ever since we changed the format to what it is today. That means, I always have the luxury of writing my WWW on election day. I like election day. Rather, I love it. Despite my general pessimism or even apathy toward politics today, I still consider myself a bit of an idealist, and that idealist in me absolutely loves what elections stand for and represent. Indeed, for as helpless as we can feel sometimes when things in the political world go in directions we’re not happy about, elections are the one way we can hold our representative government true. It’s an annual peaceful revolution, a chance for us to overthrow any regime that we feel is not doing their job in representing us as a people. So, please, if you haven’t already voted today or haven’t considered doing so, check out this site, get information on the ballot where you live, and vote.

Now, on to sports. I’m not going to lie, I feel like I’m in a sports funk with the teams I root for. It all started with the Cleveland Indians. Not the 2017 Tribe, but the 2016 Tribe. Blowing that 3-1 lead in the World Series. Virtually nothing good has happened for the sports teams I root for since then.

Think about it. First, the Indians lose the World Series. Then the Browns finish their 1-15 season. Ohio State gets absolutely embarrassed by Clemson in the college football playoffs. The Cavaliers lose to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals again. Ohio State has their worst season yet under Thad Matta, and Coach Matta, the greatest coach in Ohio State basketball history, in unceremoniously fired at the weirdest time of the year. The Detroit Red Wings saw their streak of 25 consecutive seasons making the playoffs come to an end. Then the Indians blow a 2-0 lead in the ALDS to the New York Yankees (I’m really sick of losing to Aroldis Chapman). Then we have Ohio State getting embarrassed at home by Oklahoma and then, somehow, getting even more embarrassed by Iowa this past weekend. The Browns are still doing Browns things. Kyrie Irving asked for, and received, a trade out of Cleveland. The Cavaliers are sputtering (at best) without Kyrie, meanwhile Kyrie’s Celtics are on fire and Kyrie is being credited for his massive leap in defensive effort and performance.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing of all is that the Cavaliers were supposed to be our one escape from all of this. And instead, they are perhaps the biggest disappointment of them all so far. However, while the Cavaliers may be the biggest disappointment, by far the most embarrassing situation is the Cleveland Browns.

Yesterday, as I was watching the Sashi Brown press conference, I realized just how far off the path the Browns really are. They’re not just a bad football team. They are a horrid football organization from top to bottom. Literally, any other team in the NFL that held a bye week press conference with their team President would be talking almost exclusively about football. How can the team improve, will there be personnel changes in either players or staff? What are the goals for the second half of the season? Etc, etc, etc.

Instead, Sashi was stuck answering questions about what time he leaves the office, did he sabotage a trade behind the back of the owner and coach, how can he justify missing out on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, and are the reports of a rift between the coaching staff and the front office true. Ok, those last two are things plenty of bad teams deal with as well. But those first two? Pretty unique to the Browns. Sure, there were some questions about Josh Gordon and DeShone Kizer thrown in as well, but the vast majority of the press conference seemed to deal with the circus.

Now, I know, if you are predisposed to defending the Browns and want to preserve your own image that they know what they’re doing and that this is all just a vast media conspiracy against the Browns because everyone wants them to fail, well, then you’re probably going to just write off that press conference as “typical media”. The reality is, though, the media asked nothing but completely fair questions. Yes, when someone in the Browns staff supposedly emails someone in the media and accuses Sashi Brown of leaving the office early every day, it’s fair for the media to follow up on that. When a trade falls apart in the way the AJ McCarron trade did, you have to answer for that.

The Browns’ failures are not a media conspiracy, they are not conjecture. Everyone is not out to get the Browns. This is the franchise’s 19th season since returning to the league in 1999, and the Browns are 88-208 in that time. They have had only five seasons with more than five wins, two seasons above .500, and one playoff game. They have had three owners, eight Presidents/GMs, nine head coaches, 15 offensive coordinators, 12 defensive coordinators, and 28 starting QBs. In the last ten seasons alone, the Browns are 38-114. They are just 4-36 in the last three seasons.

Nobody is making this up. There is no conspiracy. The media isn’t going out of their way to make the Browns look bad. The Cleveland Browns have been a pathetic franchise on the most extreme levels for 19 years now. Enough is enough. The Cleveland Browns have done this to themselves.

Who do we blame, though? Do we blame Al Lerner, Randy Lerner, and Jimmy Haslam for the way they’ve run the team? Do we blame the NFL for forcing Al Lerner on us first, and then delivering Jimmy Haslam to us on a silver platter? Do we blame the front office executives for all the horrendous drafts, poor free agency moves, bad trades, and inability to find a QB? Do we blame the coaches and coordinators for poor schemes, poor planning, and poor execution on game days? Do we blame all of them?

I don’t really care, blame whomever you want. I think they all deserve varying amounts of blame. But I wonder if the solution is perhaps a little more simple than we realize. Watching the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions last night, it was clear the Packers without Aaron Rodgers are a completely different team. It reminded me of how dominant the Indianapolis Colts were until Peyton Manning got hurt. Or how different the Colts look even now without Andrew Luck. Sure, you have the occasional team like the New England Patriots who were able to survive when Tom Brady was hurt and/or suspended, but most of the time when a franchise QB is out, the team falls apart.

It’s no secret the Browns are dying of thirst for a franchise QB. It makes passing on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson seem like that much more of a sin on the part of the Browns. And you have to wonder, is that a fireable offense? I will grant anyone who says “Well, Wentz and Watson wouldn’t have been good under Hue Jackson’s system, anyway”. But then I’ll come back to the question of who hired Hue, then. This is the mess Jimmy Haslam has created. And it all lies at his feet because of his ridiculous org chart which has both Sashi and Hue reporting to Jimmy.

Am I saying Jimmy should clean house? Well, I think the results speak for themselves and I would have no problem if he did so, but I’d rather Jimmy just sell the team. I’m firmly on Craig Lyndall’s #SellTheBrowns bandwagon. But above all else, if we’re going to just keep the same people around for the most part, then I hope two things happen.

One, pick the best QB in the draft. It is the height of stupidity that the Browns have not done this since Tim Couch. You want to know how the Eagles and Rams turned things around so quickly? They made aggressive moves to put themselves in position to get the best QB in the draft. The Houston Texans made an aggressive move to get their QB. Meanwhile, the Browns, the team that needs a QB more than anyone, is the team that traded down for two of those three teams. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road.

Get. The. Best. QB. In. This. Draft1.

Two, Hue needs to update his offense and embrace some of the college schemes that NFL teams are now applying. He needs to have a top tier QB, yes, but he also needs to put him in position to succeed. That means not making learn a bunch of new things and dumb formations that the Browns run. He needs to be allowed to run some (some, not all) of the things he’s comfortable with from college. This is the trend in the NFL, and it’s time for the Browns to embrace it.

I don’t know if the Browns are only a QB away from something resembling relevance, but I know that’s where it needs to start. And I know things are never going to change or get better until the Browns figure out how to get a QB on this roster that can carry the franchise. Until then, the Browns are just one big clown car with a never-ending parade of owners, gms, coaches, coordinators, and QBs spilling out the door one after another.

  1. Or trade for Andrew Luck, if that becomes a thing []