Give the Browns credit, they’ve been in all but two games despite the 0-13 record. 0-13 is something to dwell on, and Hue Jackson’s 1-28 record is unacceptable, but when you’re coaching the NFL’s youngest team with a roster torn apart two off-seasons ago, wins are few and far in between. Even with the level of experience, one would expect more wins, but in Hue’s defense, he’s been competitive. I’ll be the first to say a competitive 0-16 is better than a 4-12 season where a team gets blown out eight times, as is the case of the 2008 or 2009 Browns, who finished 5-11. Each week was an expected blowout. At least here in 2017, they keep a fan’s interest.
I get it, this team is 1-31 since Week 15, 2015, and 4-46 since Week 13, 2014. This futility has even the most die-hard fan shaking their head, wondering why they bother to care. But if you ask anyone with an ounce of mainstream or commercial success who mastered their craft without inheriting a fortune from mom, dad, or the grandparents, they’ll tell you one thing: they failed about one-thousand times before succeeding. It’s a message we can hold true to ourselves, especially today, where everyone expects a quick fix. Look, the Browns are losing at an alarming rate, but there is talent all over the board.
Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton, Trevon Coley, and Emmanuel Ogbah are all young and growing together. The depth is there with Carl Nassib, Nate Orchard, Larry Ogunjobi, and Jamie Meder. This depth was on display last Sunday, as both Shelton and Ogbah are out, and they succeeded. Onto the linebackers, where Christian Kirksey, Jamie Collins, and Joe Schobert make up one of the better linebacking corps on the NFL’s tenth ranked defense. That’s right, they’re a top ten defense. Check the rankings. Defensive backfield is where the problem lays, as Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty are stopgaps, while Derrick Kindred and Jabrill Peppers are in their second and first year. But Kindred and Peppers possess a hitter’s mentality. Imagine if the Browns had two Pro-Bowl caliber corners as young as Peppers and Kindred. Briean Boddy-Calhoun? Great nickelback, but not a great one or two cover man. If the Browns hit the defensive backfield hard in free agency or the draft, watch out.
DeShone Kizer has turned the ball over as much as Peyton Manning during his rookie season. Look it up, Manning threw twenty-eight interceptions back in 1998, and he had Marvin Harrison. Kizer had a bare cabinet until Corey Coleman returned from a hand injury and Josh Gordon returned from a three-year suspension. Speaking of Gordon and Coleman, they gave Kizer a few legitimate options last Sunday. Kizer had a 72% completion percentage when the duo took the field. I’m excited to see what the last three games hold. Duke and Crow are great backs. Neither should be featured, and the Browns must find a workhorse via free agency or the draft, but both have a role, especially Duke Johnson.
I can’t say enough about the offensive line. They’ve opened holes for the running backs all season, and for half the year they played without future Hall of Fame tackle, Joe Thomas. Spencer Drango has done an excellent job filling in for Thomas, given the shoes he had to fill. Zeitler, Tretter, Bitonio, and Shon Coleman will be here for the long haul. This is a good unit.
Same goes for the tight-ends. Randall Telfer is a blocker, but Seth DeValve and David Njoku have grown together and will continue to do so. Njoku is a future star, and has shown more than flashes of brilliance. He was supposed to be raw, but he’s come into his own as his rookie season winds down.
I could care less about the record. The team is better than the 2016 version, where blowouts became paramount down the stretch. The 2017 Browns, at the very least, have remained competitive in most games. It’s a sign of growth. Now, they just need to figure out how to convert leads into W’s. Leading by two scores in the fourth quarter is a good first step. Finishing games is the next item on the to-do list.