The Cleveland Browns appear to be headed to another 10 loss season, their sixth consecutive campaign losing in double figures.
Therefore, the question needs to be asked…what is different with the new regime, headed by Jimmy Haslam, Joe Banner, and Michael Lombardi? The results are the same from the last group, headed by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert.
These Browns have three possible Pro Bowl players, which would be their most in several years. OT Joe Thomas is perennial, making the all-star team every year he has been in the league. He could be bound for Canton someday.
CB Joe Haden has been outstanding all season long, highlighted by shutting down Cincinnati WR A. J. Green in both meetings between the teams, and he has started to intercept passes this year as well, with four on the season.
Those two have been the best players on the squad the past few years, but this year they are joined by WR Josh Gordon, who may be the NFL’s best wideout who isn’t named Calvin Johnson. He may be the Browns’ best wideout since Paul Warfield wore the orange and brown.
There are several other players who can be considered building blocks for a playoff team, such as C Alex Mack, TE Jordan Cameron, DT Phil Taylor, DEs Ahtyba Rubin and Billy Winn, OLBs Barkevious Mingo, Jabaal Sheard, and Paul Kruger, and ILB D’Qwell Jackson.
All of those players, save for Mingo, were brought in by the prior regimes.
So while Holmgren and Heckert take a lot of criticism for the first round of the 2012 draft (Richardson and Weeden) and deservedly so, they are responsible for putting together the foundation for the future.
Certainly, the prior president and GM also have to be faulted for the hiring of Pat Shurmur, who was a public relations disaster. Rob Chudzinski doesn’t really say anything in his press conferences either (call this the Belichick method), but fans and media can see he has a passion for the city and the game, and the players play like they respect him.
It would have been easy for the team to give a lackluster effort after the Jacksonville game, but the Browns went to New England and fought, and almost knocked off the Patriots.
Chudzinski and his staff do draw negatives with the handling of the quarterback situation, going with Brandon Weeden to start the season when it’s pretty clear he is the least effective of the trio that were on the Opening Day roster.
The front office should be lauded for the Trent Richardson trade, but at the same time should be questioned for not having another decent running back on the roster to replace him, nor did they get another passer after Brian Hoyer was injured.
That left the coaching staff without a running game, putting more pressure on Weeden, Hoyer, and Jason Campbell.
Think about how many more wins this team would have had Hoyer or Campbell started the year and the Browns had even an average running game.
Ultimately, the Banner/Lombardi group will be judged on this season’s draft, which they have spent time accumulating picks for. The fear is they will force a quarterback pick too high (see, Ponder and Gabbert) and will pass on players who can impact the team in 2014.
If they wait for the passer to come to them, perhaps with the Colts’ pick, and instead upgrade the football team at several spots, they will be remembered as the group that turned this franchise around.
Bill Parcells once said you are what your record says it is. And right now, Joe Banner and Michael Lombardi are just like everyone else who sat in their chairs.