Party Like it’s 1999 (and 2000)

Hue Jackson is the 2010’s version of Chris Palmer. I’m going to go ahead and say it. Eric Mangini was the late 2000’s version of Chris Palmer, and Chris Palmer was, well, Chris Palmer. The Browns made a mistake when they fired Mangini after the 2010 Season and hired on Pat Shurmur, who had never even been a coordinator in this league. Backtrack to a decade earlier, the Browns fired Chris Palmer in favor of Butch Davis. The similarities I see between Palmer’s Browns and Jackson’s Browns are astounding.

Want a run down?

1: Each coach had thrust a young quarterback into action, which in my opinion is a good move, considering all quarterbacks go through the same phases.

2: In Palmer’s second season, the Browns led the league in injuries. They aren’t doing so this year, but Myles Garrett, Jamie Collins, Corey Coleman, and possibly Danny Shelton will miss Sunday’s game. That’s four of twenty-two starters.

3: In their second season as Head Coach, a defensive end, Courtney Brown and Myles Garrett, respectively, were taken Number One Overall in the NFL Draft.

4: In their second season, the offense failed to score points (161 in 2000), and the Browns are currently averaging around 18.5 after three games this season, one of the lower marks in the league.

5: There’s already uncertainty (perceived) in the front office regarding the coach, similar to what Palmer faced in 2000.

We all know what happened after 2000. Palmer was fired, Davis was hired. After the conclusion of the 2000 season, Palmer met with then Owner Al Lerner, General Manager Dwight Clark, and CEO Carmen Policy. Lerner asked Palmer how many games he thought the Browns would win next year, and Palmer responded with six. He was let go a few weeks after that meeting. Enter Butch Davis, who was a respected college coach.

After leading the league in injuries in 2000, Davis’ Browns led the league in injuries in 2001 and 2003. One of the excuses for firing Palmer was Browns Management thought his practices were too tough, which caused the injuries. Too bad they hired someone who ran even more physical practices. Davis’ players also lacked discipline, with too many penalties and too many late hits on defense. They were a cocky bunch, and while the current Browns defense will hit you hard and talk some trash, they’re a disciplined bunch. Many of the penalties have been on the offensive side of the ball. Want an example of the lack of discipline imposed by Davis on his players? In Week One of the 2002 season, the Browns led the Kansas City Chiefs 39-37, and ended the game on a quarterback sack, only for linebacker Dwayne Rudd to remove his helmet prematurely, prompting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Chiefs won the game, 40-39, after being granted a last second field goal.

But what is my real message here? The fact that Davis came in and cleaned house, getting rid of Palmer’s players. Sure, many of those he got rid of deserved to be gone. But was it fair to Tim Couch, who today is labeled a bust? Couch had a magical 2002 season in the win-loss column, but Kelly Holcomb played so well in a relief role, Davis couldn’t figure out who the quarterback should be moving forward. After granting Holcomb the starting job in 2003, he proved to the NFL why he was a career back-up. With his confidence shot, Couch never became a viable NFL player again. But what about 2002, when Couch went 8-6 as a starter, and 7-3 down the stretch? He had a breakout season the year before in 2001, yet when Davis found ‘his guy’ in Holcomb, Couch became an afterthought. Want to have more fun? Since the 2003 quarterback controversy, the Browns have had twenty-two different guys line up under center. Butch Davis created a chain reaction that has yet to be solved.

Know who Chris Palmer was targeting with the third pick in the 2001 NFL Draft? It wasn’t “Big Money” defensive tackle, Gerard Warren, who flamed out in Cleveland after four seasons. It was running back LaDanian Tomlinson. You can only wonder what could’ve been with Tomlinson lining up behind Tim Couch, with Kevin Johnson and Dennis Northcutt lined up at receiver. The running game would’ve opened the passing game. The Browns had a playmaking defense in 2001, and they barely missed the playoffs. Insert Tomlinson, and the Browns make the playoffs that season, or close to, with Chris Palmer. Palmer said the Browns were capable of winning six games in 2001, and they won seven, which is the same in the minds of many.

Here we sit in 2017, with Hue Jackson sitting at 1-18. At this time in 2000, Chris Palmer was 4-15, but would finish the season 1-12. Again, there are rumblings among fans that Jackson needs to go, and there’s no way they can keep him after a 1-18 start. Yet Browns fans have short memories, forgetting this front office tore apart the roster back in 2016, the year Jackson was hired. Last season, there was nothing going to keep the Browns from being anything but a terrible team. This season, they’re hit hard with injuries, but if one sits there and tells me they haven’t improved, they’re either blind, ignorant, or they don’t know football. All me to give another rundown.

1: DeShone Kizer looks like a young Peyton Manning, and this year’s version of Jared Goff. Manning still holds the NFL record for most interceptions in a season for a rookie with 28, but like Manning, Kizer has given the offense life. Three of his seven interceptions occurred in the red zone. And in case one didn’t notice, he threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. In fact, he’s run for two touchdowns, and has produced five touchdowns in three games. Name another Browns quarterback who could say that in the last fifteen seasons. I can think of one (Derek Anderson).

2: This is the youngest team in the league by average age. The Browns average age this season is 24.1, this means the team as a whole are younger than I. In fact, I’m older than two-thirds of their team. I should mention I’m twenty-six.

3: The offensive line is going to be one of the best in the league. Sure, they struggled as a unit, but Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter are new to the table, and Joel Bitonio is coming off a long layoff. Right tackle Shon Coleman is in his first season as a starter. Of course, they’re going to struggle.

4: Duke Johnson is the jack of all trades, who may evolve into becoming a queen on a chessboard. There are rumors he may overtake Isaiah Crowell as the starting running back, and Duke Johnson can play anywhere on the field, also seeing time at receiver both split out and in the slot. Speaking of running backs, there’s another ultra-talented back coming out of school in 2018, a kid named Saquon Barkley. Dear Sashi Brown, don’t make the same mistake Butch Davis made back in 2001. Package your two first round picks, Crowell, and a second-round pick, move up to number one and snag the kid. He’s going to be better than Zeke Elliott.

5: Myles Garrett (R), Danny Shelton (3), Emmanuel Ogbah (2), Trevon Coley (1), Joe Schobert (2), Chris Kirskey (4), Jabrill Peppers (R), Derrick Kindred (2), and Briean Boddy-Calhoun (2) are all in their fourth season or less. Add in Jamie Collins and Jamar Taylor, every single Browns starter on defense is in their fifth season or less, the oldest being Collins and Taylor, who are twenty-seven.

6: The closet is bare at receiver, but Rashard Higgins and Jordan Leslie are showing signs of being darkhorses. Higgins had a great game Week Two against Baltimore, and Leslie made a catch last week to rival Cole Beasley’s from Week One. Corey Coleman is out with a broken hand, but Josh Gordon may finally see the field for the first time in three seasons. If both Coleman and Gordon can return, the passing game just became dynamic. The Browns also are rotating three tight-ends in Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve, and David Njoku. Telfer is in his third season, DeValve is in his second season, and Njoku is a rookie.

If you look at the numbers provided in this rundown, I’m not entirely sure why anyone is panicking at the moment. The Browns are 0-3, and they’ve looked good at times, and bad at times. However, this team isn’t built to win this year. If they win four games, it’s a success. If they’re in six of the twelve games they would lose, it’s a success, and in case one hasn’t been keeping track, they lost by three twice this season. For a young team full of rookies, second year players, and an average age of 24.1, this isn’t half bad. My message is to continue with Hue Jackson. If the Cleveland front office lets him go, they made a huge mistake.

 

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