We interrupt this radio silence to announce the nadir. Flashing irrational hope that things won’t — couldn’t! — get any worse, we simply take sad note that
- the Browns are today a worse football team than they’ve ever been
- other than the existential crisis of 1995 and the three-year hiatus, it’s now the worst period ever for Browns fandom.
Let’s deconstruct each of those two declarations in turn, so that looking back from here we might soon take measure of how much better our fortunes have fared.
The Browns are today a worse football team than they’ve ever been
Until now, they’ve never started a season 0-10.
They’ve lost a franchise-record 13 straight games.
They’ve lost 16 of their last 17 on the road.
Their last win — exhibition or otherwise — was 334 days ago.
Over a third of the roster consists of rookies, and the youngest team in the league is hitting a wall.
They have the worst point differential in the league. Their average game is a 12.6 point loss.
The Browns have allowed 90 points in third quarters alone, while scoring just 13 points of their own. (This is despite received the second-half kickoff more often than not.)
Cleveland has the most unutilized room under the salary cap, spending about $27 million less on their active players than any other team.
Their most dynamic players on both offense (Terrelle Pryor) and defense (Jamie Collins) can leave in free agency this winter if they want to. In recent years, the Browns have been largely unwilling and/or unable to secure the services of key players entering their prime playing years.
They have no clear solution at the game’s most important position, where a team record six different players have taken snaps so far.
They play poorly at all three phases of the game, offering scant chance that even an extraordinary individual or unit performance can carry them to a victory.
The new front office is unproven, and we’re on the fourth head coach since new ownership took over four years ago.
This is the worst period ever for Browns fandom, other than “The Move.”
Fans of visiting teams are increasingly taking over our home stadium.
Loyalists are caught in a psychological bind that actually compels some to hope the Browns lose, so they don’t harm their draft position. This same dynamic would also take some luster off any win that may occur, thus perverting the whole notion of rooting for one’s team.
A similar bind occurs when a die-hard fan is beaten down by losing, disgusted with the decision-making behind it, and borderline embarrassed by investing so much time, money, and energy in such a substandard product. If an outlet for recreation and diversion is not really enjoyable, it’s hard to justify attending so much to it. But that contradicts the ethic which derides the bandwagon fan, who only shows up and cheers when times are good and general excitement is already flush.
The losing has finally caught up to us. The Browns’ NFL record has sunk to .500 for the first time in history. Since their four-year dominance of the AAFC isn’t officially recognized, the Browns are bound to soon be regarded and assessed as an overall loser of a franchise. The serial suck has now subsumed the spectacular success that once defined the Cleveland Browns as the New York Yankees of pro football.
Even the team’s own publications continue to largely discount the Browns’ statistical accomplishments from 1946-1949. Now that it’s the last bastion against swinging their overall record from winners to losers, will they decide to change that? That this is essentially a non-starter of a question says plenty about how little the organization truly gets the importance of the Browns as a Cleveland social and cultural institution. I’d love for them to prove me wrong.
The Haslam era of ownership — now that a full four years have passed — has been an ignominious failure. From corporate scandal to selling out goodwill assets to rampant turnover to bastardizing iconic uniforms to buying the Manziel hype to skimping on talent to an overall record of 18-39 and last-place finishes every year since the purchase closed, well, it’s been nothing short of a disgrace.
… things will get better.
… a few of the seeds planted will take root and grow into something worth keeping.
… Hue is the right guy to ride DiPodesta’s roller coaster through this long, dark tunnel.
… the extraordinary draft capital amassed this year will make for a quicker turnaround than seems possible from this lowly vantage.
But right now, if you’re a Browns fan, it’s OK to be depressed. It’s OK to worry about other things in life for a while. You’re still one of us. You still belong.
You can see yourself as both customer and victim if you choose, or as neither. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid if you know it’s poison. But if you can stand it, root root root for the laundry some more, that infuriating laundry.