CARSON, CA-Cleveland Browns fans are hopeful that the best is yet to come. They believe the future is still bright. They’re optimistic that things will turnaround for their team. When that time comes, nobody knows. It’s been a dry period of losses for the Browns and their fans for quite some time. Winning an NFL football game has almost become an allergic reaction for the Browns.
“I’ve been a Cleveland Browns fans for as long as I can remember,” said Hayden Roush. “I used to grow up in Bernie Kosar jerseys. My old man is a Browns fan. It’s a struggle, but it’s one where I’m determined to stick through, and hopefully one day will get to celebrate a Super Bowl.”
Outside of the glory years of Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown and that incredible run by those Dawg Pound teams, the Browns have been a picture of abysmal functionality. The last time the Browns posted a winning record was in 2007 when they recorded a 10-6 mark. Cleveland has not strung together a string of back-to-back winning seasons since a four-year window from 1986 to 1989 when they went 12-4, 10-5, 10-6, and 9-6-1.
Bernie Kosar, where are you? Kosar led Cleveland to three AFC championship games during that short window, and was the last franchise quarterback the Browns had. That was a long time ago. Johnny Manziel don’t count.
Official futility has come the Browns way the past few seasons. From 2008 until the end of the 2016 season, the Browns won 38 games. Their losses totaled 106 during that time. Last year, Cleveland won an unremarkable one game. If they don’t get their act together between now and the end of the regular season when they play the Pittsburg Steelers, the Browns will do the unthinkable, and that is not record a single victory during the 2017 NFL season.
“We’ve been through a lot of rough times,” said Juan Aviles. “I just hope the next couple of years we’ll be good. We’re a young team; that’s why we have the record we’re at. We have a lot of energy, but we don’t have the veteran leadership in our locker room. We just got to go and fight.”
That will not be a cool tag for your franchise to be labeled with. After dropping a 19-10 road defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center, Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson sounded frustrated and a little exasperated with the weekly cycle of losing. It was his team’s 12th straight defeat this year.
“This is about winning and losing,” Jackson said in a postgame press conference. “If I say we did this good our players aren’t going to like that. We didn’t take this long trip to come down here and be close or say we’re looking for a moral victory. That’s not what it’s about. We want to win. We all work hard coaches, players, this organization, everybody works hard. So, there’s no moral victories. We want to win.”
Cleveland’s future is supposed to look brighter with the plethora of young quarterbacks under Jackson’s tutelage. Besides rookie starter DeShone Kizer, the Browns have former USC star Cody Kessler and ex-Stanford standout Kevin Hogan on their roster.
In 2016, the Browns quarterback musical chairs saw Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Kessler and Hogan pining for action. With the recent firing of executive vice president Sashi Brown and hiring of John Dorsey as general manager, more uncertainty revolves around who “that guy” will be as the Browns quarterback of the future.
Selecting Kizer with the 52nd pick in the second round of the 2017 NFL was supposed to be the answer to Cleveland’s signal-caller situation. So far, it’s been a rough transition for Kizer. The former Notre Dame star has completed just 52 percent of his passes this season.
“I am starting to understand our system a lot better,” said Kizer after his 215 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception performance against the Chargers. “The check and balances in the system that allow me to play at a higher level. I have continued to understand how not to turn the ball over. Now it is time to reap what I am talking and making sure that I am not turning that ball over. This game is won [by how] you finish in the fourth quarter. Every game that you see in the league, it is very rare for a game to be out of hand in the fourth quarter. In order to win games, you have to play well in the fourth.”
The Browns can only go up from here. A starting point is the team’s defense. Cleveland’s defense is ranked in the top ten in the league. The Browns made two of their three first round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball, including nabbing pass rusher Myles Garrett with the No.1 overall selection.
Then there is the Josh Gordon factor for the Browns to consider. The superb wide receiver made his 2017 debut against the Chargers and looked every bit like the explosive game-breaker he’s been recognized to be. So, there’s some promise there for Cleveland fans to be excited about.
“He made some plays,” Jackson said of Gordon, who was targeted 11 times and caught four passes for 85 yards against the Chargers. “It was his first game back and it looked like he belonged. He has some rust that he needs to knock off but I thought he competed.”
Kizer, who has gone through this baptism by fire introduction into the NFL, believes the Browns are on the verge of breaking through into the win column.
“All season you can see it,” Kizer said. “We are very close to getting where we want to go, but I can definitely sense in this locker room that very close isn’t cutting it anymore. We need to get over that hill. We do whatever in practice. Prepare ourselves to execute at a higher level, so we can win some games. There are some guys in the locker room who really deserving on this team. Veterans who have put their bodies on the line, some rookies who are stepping up, some young guys who are becoming stars. We need to reward those guys who are working on end. We have to start winning games.”