Could the Cleveland Browns Actually Be Good this Year?

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The Browns have been an absolute dumpster fire since being revived in 1999 and even before then their existence in the Super Bowl era hasn’t been anything to write home about. The ineptitude that has been showcased by this franchise has made them the laughing stock of the league. From firing their head coach seemingly every year, to keeping the worst of the bunch longer than he’s earned simply because of the aforementioned reputation, missing out on a trade of a perceived franchise quarterback because you didn’t submit the paperwork in time, to going 0-16, the Browns have been pretty rough. And this was just last season alone.

Hue Jackson has been a disaster as head coach. While the talent around him hasn’t been great, most teams can usually “luck” their way into a victory or two. In his 2-year tenure, Jackson holds a record of 1-31 with the Browns, that one win being against the San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve in 2016 thanks to a late blocked field goal. That was on a Saturday. The Browns haven’t won on a Sunday since 2015 when Johnny Manziel was their quarterback. To make matters worse, Jackson swore that if the Browns went 0-16, he’d jump into one of the Great Lakes, implying he would do it at the end of the season. He just did it a couple days ago.

And then of course, there’s the jersey.

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This picture of the jersey is a bit outdated because it doesn’t include Deshone Kizer, Cody Kessler, or Kevin Hogan, all of whom have made starts for the Browns in the Hue Jackson era, all of whom have since been shipped out since the start of the offseason when new GM John Dorsey took over. Quarterback has been the definition of a black hole since the Browns returned to the league. Starting with Tim Couch in 1999, the Browns have taken the following quarterbacks in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft: Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Johnny Manziel, Deshone Kizer, now Baker Mayfield. Everyone up until Mayfield has been a colossal bust, some were hard to dispute at the time of drafting (Brady Quinn seemed to be can’t-miss coming out of college), some were head scratchers (Brandon Weeden was 28 years old when the Browns made him a first round pick in 2012), while others made everybody question what they know about football (Johnny Manziel was the exact opposite of what a quarterback is typically classified as and the Browns still took him 22nd overall).

But is there hope? The team that the Browns are set to field in 2018 is, on paper, the best they may have had since their re-inception. With the recent addition of linebacker Mychal Kendricks, the Browns suddenly have arguably the best group of linebackers in football with Kendricks, Jamie Collins, and the VASTLY underrated Christian Kirksey. They’ve got a potent pass rushing duo in Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. They just drafted a very solid corner in Denzel Ward fourth overall. They’re getting Josh Gordon back for a full season and he looks as good as he did prior to his suspension. They acquired Jarvis Landry in a trade with the Dolphins. They acquired a competent quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. They drafted Baker Mayfield first overall to sit behind Taylor for a year to develop. Even without the recently retired Joe Thomas, the Browns still have a solid offensive line. Carlos Hyde is a new addition in the backfield. There is legit talent on this Browns team this year and it’s thanks in large part to the addition of John Dorsey in the GM’s seat.

Now am I saying the Browns are going to win a Super Bowl in 2018? Of course not, the dumbest football fan on the planet won’t even say that unironically. The only way anybody is placing any Super Bowl bets on the Browns is if they DESPERATELY need hundreds of millions of dollars right now to pay off their debt to the mob. But could they actually be competitive this year? Well…yeah! I’m actually going to go ahead and say I think this team could feasibly go 8-8…on paper.

The problem is, a culture of losing is very difficult to shake. Trust me, I know. My high school football team won 4 games in my 4 years there, 3 of those came in my sophomore year and my freshman and senior seasons were winless seasons. You always doubt yourself and your ability to win the game. In fact, I went into a few games thinking to myself “I hope the score will at least be close so we have something to hold our heads up high about.” It’s going to take a DRASTIC culture change if the Browns are going to take things to the next level and the type of thinking that’s probably running rampant amongst guys within the organization right now is going to hold them back. While the roster overhaul is a good start, this team needed to be gutted to the core. No seat is going to be hotter than Hue Jackson’s in 2018 and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see him get gutted the moment things start spiraling for the Browns in 2018. Besides, they do have Todd Haley at Offensive Coordinator, who does have head coaching experience with the Chiefs. He was 19-26 with the Chiefs, though he did lead them to the playoffs in his second of 3 seasons.

But I’m not just talking about Jackson. I’m talking everybody in the organization should be on the hot seat, INCLUDING owner Jimmy Haslam. While you can’t exactly fire the owner, I really don’t think the Browns are going to go very far while he’s at the helm. The ineptitude starts at the top with him. I mean for God’s sake, Dorsey wouldn’t even tell his boss who he was drafting first overall until the night before the Draft! If the Browns were to be sold, we could see things take a turn for the better provided it’s to a capable buyer. Just look at what happened with the New England Patriots. They were basically the Browns of the 20th century in the AFC and while they did appear in a Super Bowl prior to new ownership, they got absolutely DESTROYED by the Chicago Bears and really had no business being in that game in the first place (they upset Dan Marino’s Dolphins to get to the big game). However, since Robert Kraft bought the team in the early-90’s, pretty much everything has gone New England’s way. While it took a while for the Patriots to become what we know them to be today, they did eventually become arguably the most dominant franchise in NFL history. It’s not unreasonable to think that the Browns

That’s going to do it for today, let me know what you think of the Browns’ chances at future success in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Super Bowl LII Preview

So it’s all come down to this. Super Bowl Sunday. The Eagles and Patriots took very different routes to get to this point. The Eagles were running roughshod over the league before losing their potential MVP quarterback in Carson Wentz to an ACL tear. He gets replaced by Nick Foles, who had been inconsistent up until the NFC Championship game, where he absolutely lit up the NFL’s #1 defense in the Vikings. Meanwhile the Patriots got off to a rough start and everybody wondered if this was the beginning of the end of their dynasty. Then they remembered they were the Patriots and proceeded to collect win after win en route to another AFC Championship game appearance, where they had to overcome a 10-point 4th quarter deficit to defeat the upstart Jaguars. So lets do what I always do with championship games and go position-by-position to see which team has the advantage.

Quarterback

Patriots: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Eagles: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Advantage: Patriots

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Was there really ever any doubt? Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time whether he has protective bandages over his throwing hand or not. While Nick Foles played extremely well in the NFC Championship game, he’s too inconsistent for me to really give him a chance here. And as much as I love Nate Sudfeld, him being the previous Indiana quarterback, he can’t hold a candle to Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was the 49ers starting quarterback to start the season and how many guys can say they have a winning record as a starter for the reborn Browns? Just Hoyer. So this was a pretty easy choice here.

Runningback

Patriots: Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Patriots

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While I do think that the Eagles runningbacks are better rushers, the Patriots runningbacks are far more dynamic and versatile. Ajayi and Blount are good running the football, but they have bricks for hands out of the backfield. They usually have Clement receiving the passes. Lewis, White, and Burkhead are all not only good rushers, but they’re good receiving out of the backfield as well, which is why they’re getting the nod over the Eagles backs.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Patriots: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Advantage: Patriots

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A healthy Julian Edelman would’ve made this an easy choice, but alas, we take what we get. This is probably one of the most balanced receiving groups the Patriots have had since the Moss-Welker days as they have a speedster who can take the top off (Cooks), possession receivers that can move the chains (Hogan and Amendola) and a huge red zone threat (Gronkowski). The Eagles have a similar group of guys (Agholor moving the chains, Smith the speedster, Jeffery the huge red zone threat), but I think the Patriots have utilized them most effectively this season.

Offensive Line

Patriots: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, La’Adrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming

Eagles: Hal Vatai, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson

Advantage: Eagles

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Finally, the Eagles are on the board here and it’s thanks in large part to probably the best right side of an offensive line I think I’ve ever seen. You can make an argument for all three of Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson being the best at their respective spots on the offensive line in the entire NFL. While the Patriots’ O-line is solid, they don’t have nearly enough talent to contend with the Eagles. And imagine if Jason Peters were healthy on the left side. Vatai is the weakest link on either of these offensive lines, but his teammates are so good they make up for his shortcomings.

Defensive Line

Patriots: Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Alan Branch, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Ricky Jean Francois, Eric Lee

Eagles: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Vinny Curry

Advantage: Eagles

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There’s just too much talent on this Eagles defensive front. In fact, I think Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, the starting DT’s, are going to be the most critical pieces if the Eagles hope to beat the Patriots. Brady does pretty well when there’s pressure coming from the tackles but he’s like a deer in the headlights when there’s pressure coming up the middle. Cox and Jernigan are one of the best DT duos in the NFL and they’re going to need to get lots of pressure to stifle Brady. For the Patriots, their defensive line is a patch-up job as they lost a lot of their guys to either free agency in the offseason or to injury and it’s resulted in them being possibly the weakest unit on this team.

Linebacker

Patriots: Kyle Van Noy, James Harrison, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, David Harris

Eagles: Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Dannell Ellerbe, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Advantage: Eagles

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This was probably the closest one to choose from and I debated calling this a tie. But I hate ties so I decided to go with the pure talent aspect and that’s where the Eagles won out. Both teams lost their star middle linebackers midway through the seasons (Dont’a Hightower for the Patriots, Jordan Hicks for the Eagles) and they’ve both been trying to get by with the pieces they have. While Van Noy is having a career year, the talent around him in Elandon Roberts and a 39 year-old James Harrison doesn’t quite stack up to what the Eagles have in Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham.

Secondary

Patriots: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Johnson Bademosi, Brandon King, Jordan Richards

Eagles: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Rodney McLeod

Advantage: Patriots

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It was a tale of two halves of the season for the Patriots’ secondary and no better was it personified than in the play of Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore looked lost in Matt Patricia’s system his first few weeks, as he would blow coverage after coverage while the Patriots would get lit up by quarterbacks that probably shouldn’t be doing so. He suffered a concussion midway through the year and after he returned, he’s been his old Pro Bowl-caliber self, locking down any receiver that he’s matched up on. Eric Rowe has also been a bright spot in this secondary as well and it’s interesting to note that the Patriots acquired him from the Eagles in a trade a couple years ago after a poor showing to start his career in Philly. For the Eagles, their secondary is considered their weak spot as their cornerbacks in particular have been very inconsistent this season.

Specialists

Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jake Elliott, Donnie Jones, Nelson Agholor, Rick Lovato, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Eagles

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I’d probably give this a tie to the kickers and punters, as both units for both teams have been very solid this season. The thing that puts the Eagles over the top is Kenjon Barner as their return man. While he isn’t Devin Hester by any means, Barner would definitely be an upgrade over Lewis and Amendola as returners.

Coaching

Patriots: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia

Eagles: Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz

Advantage: Patriots

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Got to go with the Patriots here for obvious reasons. While it can’t be overstated the job that Pederson and company have done with this Eagles team, it’s Bill Belichick for Christ’s sake. Plus, he’s got two head coaches serving as his coordinators in McDaniels and Patricia, who will be taking over the Colts and Lions respectively after this game ends.

Scoreboard: Patriots 5, Eagles 4

No need to even watch the game now, congratulations to the Patriots on their sixth Super Bowl victory. As a Pats fan, I pray I don’t regret that sentence. This will be my third championship prediction segment, first time around I picked the Dodgers to win the World Series (I was wrong) then I picked Alabama to win the CFP National Championship (I was right). So really there isn’t anything to suggest how this is going to go based on my picks. Let me know who you think is going to win the Super Bowl in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.