Improvement in 0-13

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.

Why the Browns Have Improved

1-27 isn’t pretty. In fact, 1-27 will cost any NFL coach his job. But with the Browns in Year Two of a franchise overhaul, Hue Jackson may (and should) be an exception to the golden rule come Black Monday next month. The average fan would point to Jackson’s back to back 0-12 starts and state his lack of wins are the only reason they need in their debate to let him go. I’m a numbers guy when it comes to football and upon further research, my black and white discoveries met my claim: The Browns have improved.

Let’s begin with first downs, where the Browns are minus 3 behind their opponents. They finished 2016 minus 68. Through twelve games, their ability to move the ball shows an improved offense. Through twelve games, their offense outrushed their opponents by 107 yards, while they finished 2016 at minus 262. They finished 2016 at minus 735 passing yards. In 2017, they’re minus 331. The offensive line has been a focal point, allowing only 39 sacks through twelve games, compared to 66 in 2016.

On the defensive side, they’re allowing 5.2 yards per play, down from 5.9 yards per play in 2016. Last season, the Browns allowed a 4.6 yard per carry average against NFL running backs. In 2017, the number is down to 3.3. Total rushing yards allowed? 1,163 this season. The 2016 total? 2,283. Through twelve games, they’ve sacked the quarterback 24 times, compared to 26 in 2016. The Browns defense allowed an astounding 6,279 yards last season, surrendering an average of 392 yards per game. This season, the Browns allowed 3,927 yards, averaging 327 yards per game, an improvement of 65 yards.

Another argument for continuing the set foundation accounts for starters acquired via draft, free agency, and trade. Upon looking at the Browns depth chart, they’ve found starters in Corey Coleman, Spencer Drango, Joel Bitonio, Shon Coleman, Emmanual Ogbah, Danny Shelton, Myles Garrett, Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, Derrick Kindred, and Jabrill Peppers. Trevon Coley fought his way into the starting lineup, being a second-year undrafted free agent. In other words, eleven of their twenty-two starters were drafted between the years 2014 and 2017. If one adds DeShone Kizer and David Njoku, who receives adequate playing time at tight-end, the number jumps to thirteen. Duke Johnson finds the field often, and Josh Gordon made his season debut for the first time in three seasons, so he’s essentially a newbie. Make that number sixteen, over two-thirds of the starters are twenty-six or younger.

Bitonio, Kirksey, and Schobert continue to play at Pro-Bowl levels. Garrett, Shelton, and Ogbah have transformed a once bleak defensive line. Peppers shows flashes of his hard-hitting ability. Ditto for Kindred. Duke Johnson remains one of the better receiving running backs in the game. Even DeShone Kizer, who critics grill for his less than stellar numbers have found the end zone five times this season and isn’t out of the running to start next season. Hey, Troy Aikman went 0-11 in his first eleven starts, too and nearly lost his job to some kid named Steve Walsh.

Talk of trades, the Browns acquired Jamie Collins, the unspoken leader of the defense and Jamar Taylor in 2016. Each found a place on Cleveland’s starting eleven. Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter were prize free agent pickups, and another name to lookout for is James Burgess, who has strung together a few strong outings.

My friends tell me the way I talk, this should be a playoff team, right? Of course, not! They’re young, as I established earlier, but they’re much improved. This is a team who last season owned a defense reminiscent of the 2008 Lions and almost became them. This season, the Title of Imperfection isn’t out of reach, but the numbers look far better. As a friend of mine put it, they’re in almost every game. They are. They keep me watching, or listening, as I live in Steeler territory, until late in the fourth quarter. Minus the Texans and first game against the Bengals, they’ve been in games. Four have been decided by three points. One decision went to overtime.

I’m often asked how I can continue to root for such a futile team, who managed to pass up the 1976-77 Buccaneers in terms of worst starts by a Head Coach. I’ll be honest: my dream is playing out. Really, it is. I said it years ago. They need to tear down the roster and just post a miserable record for a few seasons. Start from scratch. Draft quantity, and through the years switch from quantity to quality. Build these guys and keep them together. Something big is happening over on the Lakefront. A complete teardown and rebuild takes years, as does anything worth having. See it through to the end.

Continuity Counts

The Cleveland Browns last won their division in 1989. I was born in 1991. The Browns last won a playoff game in 1994. I was three. The Browns last made the playoffs in 2002. I was ten in January 2002. The Browns have been through twenty-eight starting quarterbacks and nine head coaches since 1999. They also had four owners since my birth year. When I was four, the Browns were hijacked by Art Modell and moved to Baltimore, becoming the Ravens. The Ravens have since won two Super Bowls and trail Cleveland’s chief rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-21 in their all-time series. The Browns led the all-time series against the Steelers, 52-41 before the move. Today, the all-time series stands at 73-58, Pittsburgh’s favor. Want more fun? Pittsburgh leads the post-expansion era series 32-6. Talk about a one-sided rivalry.

Being a Browns fan is tough within itself, especially for the Clevelanders who live and die with each breath the Browns take, each play made on the field, each crunch of the pads. Fans who attended the final home game of the 1995 season can still remember the sounds of seats being torn out, unsure if they’d ever se the plain, orange helmets take the field ever again. In 1999, the fans got their wish, but at what cost? It’s like Lord Voldemort’s attempts in Harry Potter to return to his full body. He prolonged his life, but it was a cursed life; a half-life, a life he couldn’t sustain without a host. Abandoned, Lord Voldemort remained in the Albanian Forests for a decade and a half, waiting for a single loyal follower to find him. Two decades into the expansion era, the Browns, like Lord Voldemort, a shell of what they once were, are playing in front of half-empty stadiums as fans file out in the third quarter after witnessing two uninspired quarters of football.

Owner Jimmy Haslam knows boycotts are occurring outside the stadium. Fire the coach and start over? Haslam’s done that three times and it’s put the team into this mess. Why not try something else? Tear the roster to the bare bones? Why not? Haslam hired the right people in place to do that. He hired a great coach; a quarterback whisperer. Then his squad wins a single game over the next twenty-seven, and once again fans are clamoring for coach Hue Jackson’s exit.

What does Jackson have to work with? Sure, pieces are in place all over the field, but they’re rookies, second year, and third year players. He has Joe Thomas, an eleven-year vet. He has Jamie Collins, though he’s landed on injured reserve. Jason McCourty is great in the secondary, but eighty percent of the team was born during Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri’s rookie season, or a year before.

Why not see the plan through this time? Why not keep the pieces of the puzzle in place and see what might happen in Year Three and Year Four? Firing coaches every two to three seasons has never worked. The only two coaches to last until their fourth seasons were Butch Davis and Romeo Crennel, Davis’s successor. Chris Palmer, Terry Robiskie, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, and Mike Pettine lasted two seasons or less. The Browns are 88-211 since returning to the league.

Have they blown draft picks? Of course. Was every draft a disaster? Nope. Why do many Pro-Bowl caliber draft picks set off for greener pastures? Perhaps it has something to do with lack of continuity. When a new coach comes in and a new regime comes in to change the system every two seasons and bring in “their guys,” any player would be frustrated and go to New England, Pittsburgh, or wherever he can find stability. Sure, picks were mishandled.

Today, fans are down the front office’s throat about passing on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Breakdown Wentz’s college game film. There’s nothing special about Wentz when he played at a powerhouse FCS program. He forced passes, never stayed healthy, and played off raw ability. I give the Browns a free pass on this one. As for passing on Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson? I had Watson ranked number one among incoming quarterbacks, and he destroyed two NFL caliber defensive units while in college. I would’ve taken Watson over Trubisky and I would’ve taken Watson over Patrick Mahomes. But would Watson have fared any better than incumbent starter, DeShone Kizer. I know Kizer’s numbers aren’t pretty, but when Corey Coleman’s on the field, Kizer posted his two best games as a pro. This week, Josh Gordon takes the field for the first time since 2014. I know, it feels like forever, but if Gordon has anything left in him (spoiler alert, he sure looks like it), Kizer’s numbers will go through the roof. For that, I’m not giving up on Kizer.

As for the defense, when was the last time the Browns had a pass rusher as effective as defensive end, Myles Garrett? Try Jabaal Sheard. No, try back in 2006, Kamerion Wimbley’s rookie season. When was the last time the Browns had productive linebackers such as Joe Schobert, Jamie Collins, and Christian Kirksey? In the expansion era, never. 2002 is the closest season to that feat.

They’re ripping Zane Gonzalez for inconsistent kicking. Newsflash, Phil Dawson was inconsistent in 1999, going 8 for 12 on field goals that season. There’s a one-year learning curve to kick in the AFC North.

Do you know what I see when I look at the Browns? A team reminiscent of 1999 and 2000, but in all the good ways. I see a young team full of stars. Young stars who can produce, and if given a few years in the same system, maybe they’ll start winning? It isn’t guaranteed. Nothing’s guaranteed. But the Browns can and will win, if only continuity is in place. Don’t hire a new coach and bring in a new regime just to tear the roster down and rebuild from scratch. A circle sees no ending, so why are we spinning our wheels? If you want continuity and a winning team, it’s not going to happen overnight. It takes time, and it takes patience and persistence.

If there is No Struggle, there is No Progress

These words were made famous by Frederick Douglass, and his famous quote accurately describes the last season and a half for the Browns. Over the past twenty-two games, the Browns are 1-21, leaving Cleveland fans (again) clamoring for another clean out the front office. As for Coach Hue Jackson, the feelings are mixed. I feel for Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta, the ringleaders of the current front office. If Hue gets axed, I’ll feel for him, too.

If the Browns decide to hire a General Manager, and said General Manager wishes to bring in his own coach, ninety-five percent of Browns fans and NFL fans in general are going to give credit to the wrong group of people when the Browns start winning. Why? Brown and DePodesta have built a foundation for the team. When was the last time an incoming General Manager could say that? Furthermore, Brown and DePodesta tore down a roster to its bare bones when they inherited a franchise nothing short of a train wreck.

I’m astounded when fans think Hue should be winning and are already labeling guys such as DeShone Kizer and Corey Coleman busts. For one, Kizer and one of his NFL Draft brethren, Mitchell Trubisky, have an identical completion percentage. Kizer’s is actually better, at 50.9%, then Trubisky, at 49%. For another, Corey Coleman has played twelve of his first twenty-two games as a Brown, meaning he’s missed half his possible games. In these twelve games, Coleman has forty receptions. If one averages this out to a full season, they’ll get fifty-three receptions. He also has four touchdown receptions, which is on pace for five over a sixteen-game stretch. Great numbers? No. But at this point, rookie tight-end David Njoku is on pace for thirty-five receptions for eight touchdown grabs as he shares time with tight-ends Seth DeValve and Randall Telfer. Running-back Duke Johnson is on pace for seventy catches, and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry on the ground. What do these kids have in common? They’re all in their third seasons as a pro, or less.

Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta have built a foundation on offense, yet many fans fail to see it. Fans point to winning as the only statistic that matters and in the long run, it does. But when you break a roster down to men who are either rookies or rejects, sans tackle Joe Thomas, back in 2016, I’m not sure what the fans are expecting. Especially in Year Two of what’s supposed to be a five-year plan. I’ve previously written this season reminds me of that pivotal 2000 season, after which the Browns fired Chris Palmer and courted Butch Davis. At that time, the Browns were in Year Three of the Expansion Era, and Palmer was supposed to be in the driver’s seat, not Davis. Palmer built a budding foundation, and Davis reaped the benefits in Years Three and Four. When Davis changed the culture, and brought in his own guys in Years Five and Six, he fell flat on his face, ultimately resigning in November 2004 after leading the Browns to a 3-9 start.

I love history because it can teach us what works and what doesn’t work. The fanbase is impatient and frustrated, and they have every right to be, but for once the Cleveland Browns as an organization need to learn from their history and see this storm through until the end. Hiring and firing coaches and personnel every two seasons has gotten the Browns into this mess. It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. Why would they even consider?

The Browns will win under any new coach and front office, but they’ll be doing so under men acquired by the previous regime. If this happens, a tornado siren should be going off in the minds of every Browns fan. What if the next regime wishes to bring in its own people? The process will never end. I like looking to the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA, who through three abysmal seasons record-wise, stuck with Head Coach, Brett Brown. In Year Three, the Sixers went 10-72. In Year Four, their record was 28-54. This season, many NBA analysts are projecting a lower-end playoff berth. The same could be said for the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL, or the Houston Astros of the MLB. If the Browns wish to finally get this right, they need to stick out the storm, ignore the critics, ignore the fans, and keep their eye on the final prize.

Kevin Hogan, the next…Joe Montana?

On Wednesday, it became official. After bringing the offense to life several times over the last few weeks, Kevin Hogan will be in the driver’s seat this Sunday as the Browns take on the Texans. I know what you’re thinking: Couch-Holcomb, Quinn-Anderson, Hoyer-Weeden, McCown-Manziel, Seinfeld never made yada-yada sound so tasty. Well, here we go, again. This year’s match-up will be DeShone Kizer versus Kevin Hogan.

There are two things I need to admit. For one, Kevin Hogan was my favorite quarterback in the 2016 Draft Class. Not Goff, not Wentz, not Prescott…what were the Browns thinking when they drafted Cody Kessler in the third round? Kessler, as we now know, has been inactive all season, and the kid started eight games back in 2016. Nope, it was Kevin Hogan. That’s right, the fourth man on the depth chart to open the preseason. Naturally, I thought Hogan would be the odd man out this year, simply due to Kizer’s and Kessler’s draft statuses, and the trade for Brock Osweiler.

We know what happened. Osweiler looked like Jim Druckenmiller. Who? Exactly. Look up the 1997 San Francisco 49ers, and you’ll find out. Kessler took about twenty steps backwards, and ended up losing his starting gig in training camp to Brock Osweiler. Osweiler proved to be a free agent bust in Houston, and he didn’t impress anyone in Cleveland. Kizer impressed against the back-ups, and played well enough against the starters to earn the job.

Then came the game against Pittsburgh. Get this, the Browns almost won! And it was DeShone Kizer leading the charge, looking like Tim Couch from back in the day. Hey, if you think Couch is a bust, you need to watch some of his game film. Sure, there’d be games where he went something like 13 for 35 for 98 yards and a few picks, but two weeks later he’s 30 for 40, with 350 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Then he’d play a few okay games, and finally, a few not-so-okay games. Then, he’d have the one game where you’re begging for Kelly Holcomb. Want more fun? Holcomb starts a few and looks like the career-backup he’s always been, and manages to break his leg. Before you knew it, Couch was back in, and the fans were looking to the Heavens as if Thanksgiving came early. Well, DeShone Kizer has looked exactly like Tim Couch…no, maybe Couch isn’t a great example. What about Mike Phipps? Phipps was before my time. All I know is he was supposed to have been the successor to the aging Bill Nelson and blew his shot.

Look, we all knew Kizer wasn’t going to be the reincarnation of Otto Graham. Nor is Hue Jackson the reincarnation of the team’s namesake, Paul Brown. Okay, Hue Jackson may be the one guy in the entire history of Cleveland’s Head Coaches who bears resemblance to Brown’s personality. The passion, charisma, never-say-die attitude, and then some. Look, I know Jackson’s 1-20, but this roster was torn to the bare bones. Besides, how can Kizer be anything but what he’s been, with his 49.1 passer rating and 50.1 percent completion percentage. The kid was throwing the ball to Kasen Williams and Bryce Treggs last week! Who? Exactly!

                Then Kevin Hogan came into the game and played “lights-out,” if I’m going to quote Hue Jackson when describing the play of Kizer just one week before. No, Hogan played lights-out in the second half. Heck, a 122.1 quarterback rating is going to change the mind of any coach, especially with a kid whose faced adversity over the past few seasons such as Kevin Hogan. Here’s the harsh reality, Browns fans. Didn’t Kelly Holcomb do the same thing? I was on the Holcomb bandwagon at the time. I was also eleven years old and didn’t know the first thing about NFL quarterbacks. Then there’s Couch, who in 2002 went 8-6 as a starter, 7-3 down the stretch, and won the must-win, do-or-die Week Seventeen Game against Atlanta on a broken leg. Kelly Holcomb plays next week in the Wildcard Playoffs against Pittsburgh and, well, plays as if he was the reincarnation of Otto Graham. He had a 24-7 lead in the third quarter, a 33-21 lead in the fourth, and ended up losing 36-33.

Here’s the stark difference between Hogan and Holcomb. For one, Hogan was drafted, Holcomb wasn’t. For another, Hogan’s twenty-four, Holcomb was thirty at the time. Hogan is young enough to be the next Tony Romo or Russell Wilson. Holcomb was more like Gus Frerotte, or worse, Matt Flynn. Hogan’s going to relish the opportunity, while Holcomb never appeared to be totally comfortable, always looking over his shoulder at Couch, knowing he’d be yanked by former Coach Butch Davis after throwing his first interception.

So, who would I go with against Houston? Honestly, I’d throw them a curve ball. Kizer moves the ball well, just watch the game film. Problem is, he’s left more points on the field than he’s scored, including twenty last week against the Jets. The Browns outplayed the Jets, and Hogan’s two touchdown passes would’ve added to the score. So, I’m starting Kizer. Once he drives the offense into the red zone, I’m switching to Hogan. Why? Hogan’s scored thirty-one points on ten drives.

Know who Hogan reminds me of? Joe Montana. Before claiming I’m out of my mind, hear me out. Look at Montana’s strengths and weaknesses. Hogan’s accurate. Montana was accurate. Both knew how to extend plays. Neither had brilliant arm strength. Both had brilliant minds. Best yet, both were rookies during their respective coaches first seasons with their teams. Both were mid-round picks. Hogan wears eight, Montana wore sixteen. Both are gutsy. What’s the most striking trait about this duo? Both are playing, or in Montana’s case, were playing on storied franchises with loyal fanbases going through the worst seasons in franchise history.

You know what, I talked myself out of it. I’m going with Kevin Hogan. I don’t know if he can be the next Joe Montana, but I’ve seen the play of DeShone Kizer, and it’s uninspiring.

The Top Ten Cleveland Browns Since 1999

The Browns have struggled to put a viable product onto the field since 1999. Many might ask whether I’m joking about this post, as even the most die-hard NFL fan would have a tough time naming ten relevant Browns who’ve succeeded enough to warrant recognition on a Top Ten List. However, there is hope despite the fact the Browns are 88-203 since returning to the league. Many may find it more appropriate to do a Top Ten Browns of All-Time kind of list, where guys such as Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Brian Sipe, and Bernie Kosar would easily make such a list. Clay Matthews, Otto Graham, Bill Willis, Lou Groza, Gary Collins, Paul Warfield, and others would easily warrant consideration. Ironically, it’d be tough to find ten players to end up a cut above the others, especially during the 1950’s, 60’s, and 80’s. There are simply too many to fit into a top ten. For that, I needed a challenge, so I took the last eighteen years since the expansion season of 1999 to bring to you the Top Ten Cleveland Browns Since 1999.

 

10) Josh Gordon, WR: 2012-present- Despite his endless suspensions, Josh Gordon put together one of the best seasons in NFL History back in 2013. After an initial suspension cost him the first two games of 2013, Gordon returned to dominate the league with 87 receptions, 9 touchdowns, and over 1,600 receiving yards. The jury is still out on Gordon’s return, and he’s only a two-year-wonder. If he can get his act together, Josh Gordon can move up the ranks on this list.

9) Daylon McCutcheon, CB: 1999-2006- Daylon McCutcheon was the longest lasting player from the original 1999 team who wasn’t a specialist (Phil Dawson). A third round pick out of USC, McCutcheon posted a respectable 7 sacks and 12 interceptions in seven seasons with the Browns. Known for his physicality, he made 463 tackles before being released in March 2007.

8) Kevin Johnson, WR: 1999-2003- Many wonder what could have been with Kevin Johnson had the Browns kept Head Coach Chris Palmer, who drafted Johnson in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft. Johnson is best known for being the one to haul in a last second Hail Mary to give the Browns their first win in the Expansion Era. Johnson was known among fans as Tim Couch’s favorite weapon until 2003, when Couch was benched for Kelly Holcomb. Johnson also clashed with Palmer’s successor, Butch Davis, ultimately leading to his release in the middle of the 2003 season, justified by Davis as, “Not being a good blocker.”

7) Tim Couch, QB: 1999-2003- Tim Couch may land on several lists of All-Time NFL Draft Busts, but few remember his magical 2002 season, where he went 8-6 as a starter, going 7-3 down the mid to late season stretch, leading the Browns to their only playoff appearance in the last two decades. Couch is also the last (and only) Browns quarterback since 1999 to have started all sixteen games in a single season (2001), and start the season opener for three straight seasons. To this day, he’s one of the most highly respected Cleveland Browns among the fan base.

6) Kellen Winslow, TE: 2004-2008- A broken fibula and motorcycle accident marred Winslow’s first two seasons, but when he returned in 2006, he proved he wasn’t broken. Winslow tied a team record in receptions, hauling in 89 receptions in 2006. In 2007, he became part of a dynamic trio with quarterback Derek Anderson and receiver Braylon Edwards.

5) Jamir Miller, OLB: 1999-2003- One can’t say enough about Jamir Miller. The outside linebacker was signed as a free agent back in 1999, and was easily the team’s most talented player. In 2001, Miller recorded 13 sacks, becoming the Browns first and only Pro Bowl player of the Expansion Era until 2007.

4) Joe Haden, CB: 2010-2017- Joe Haden’s career started with a bang, recording six interceptions in 2010. From 2010 to 2014, he was one of the NFL’s best corners, making the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014. Injuries have derailed Haden since and the artist known as Mr. Cleveland has since moved on to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, enabling the Cleveland Cavaliers season ticket holder to remain close to his shoe companies, located in his first football town.

3) D’Qwell Jackson, MLB: 2006-2012- When one thinks of D’Qwell Jackson, they think of a warrior. Jackson missed all of 2009 and 2010 with a pectoral injury, only to return in 2011 to continue where he left off, leading the NFL with 158 tackles. In 2014, after moving onto Indianapolis, Jackson led the AFC with 140 tackles, and followed up in 2015 with 150.

2) Phil Dawson, Kicker: 1999-2012- Phil Dawson, at age 42, continues to kick in the NFL. Dawson’s first big break came in 1999 when the Browns upset the Steeler at Three Rivers Stadium on a last second field goal. Dawson was the last remaining player from the Browns Expansion Era, moving on to San Francisco in 2013. Dawson may be best remembered with his unusual field goals, where he had two in 2007 bounce off the crossbar. The first, initially being called ‘no-good,’ was reversed after a long review, leading to a new rule in the NFL dubbed, “The Phil Dawson Rule.”

1) Joe Thomas, Offensive Tackle: 2007-present- Everyone in slots two through ten were competing for second. In fact, it would be hard to keep Joe Thomas off the NFL’s All-Decade team for both the 2000’s and 2010’s. Thomas is the Tom Brady of NFL Offensive Tackles, having set what is believed to be the longest consecutive snap streak in NFL History, well over 10,000. In fact, Thomas has never missed an NFL snap in his eleven seasons, and is one of only a handful of players to have been selected to the Pro Bowl every time in their first ten seasons. Thomas will retire one day, and five years after his retirement, he’ll be a first ballot NFL Hall of Famer. He’s arguably the greatest Offensive Tackle to ever play the game.

One Crazy NFL Sunday!

Before I begin, I would like to thank all the players, coaches, owners, and fans who took the time today to spread the awareness of freedom of speech, guaranteed to us by the First Amendment of the Constitution. This is a reminder we need to continue to allow freedom ring in a country where all men are created equal. We must also band together and continue this fight against a tyrannical leader who is using his given power in an attempt to create a nation fueled by corporate socialism, in an attempt to tell us what to do, when to do, and how to do. We must stand up for America and true, core American values, of what is given to us by the Constitution of the United States, so help us God.

The Browns were down twenty-eight to seven in the second quarter, and it looked like that time of year again. You know, the annual blowout which will set the team back eons once more. But it didn’t. the Cleveland Browns fought back, led by a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer. The defense stepped up big in the second half, and the offense came to life. Once again, the team was down big, but they failed to give up. They didn’t surrender. And they brought the game to within three points.

Once again, I saw good in the Browns, who were really banged up, missing receiver Corey Coleman, outside linebacker Jamie Collins, and defensive end Myles Garrett. This was a banged-up team who once more stepped up when it mattered most. Down by twenty-one, the Browns fought. Down by seventeen in the fourth quarter, the Browns continued to fight the good fight. It just wasn’t enough on this late-September’s Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis. Once again, for the third week in a row, the Browns lost. Once again, for the third week in a row, they fought with vigor. But the defense gave up too many points in the first half to recover.

Again, DeShone Kizer completed less than fifty percent of his passes, and threw three more picks (one on the final play of the game). Yet, he still showed grit, toughness, and poise. He’s the best quarterback the Browns have had since Derek Anderson in 2007, when he had a Pro Bowl season. Coach Hue Jackson, Owner Jimmy Haslam, and the entire Cleveland Browns organization must stick with Kizer. The kid has grown since his debut against Pittsburgh earlier in the month. Sure, he’ll likely lead the league in interceptions. Sure, his passer rating is going to be low. But as for me, his stats resemble that of a young Peyton Manning. A young Peyton Manning who can run, and extend plays with his legs. Kizer has thus far impressed me, and he’s doing it with an underwhelming receiving corps. Reminiscent to what Tim Couch had. The difference? Kizer’s keeping the team in the game and he’s leading the charge.

Jamie Collins and Myles Garrett will likely be back next week against Cincinnati. Good, because they’re going to be needed. The Browns’ passing game was mauled early in the first half, but they got it together. This team will mesh. In many ways, they remind me of the 2009 Browns, who started the season at 1-11, and rallied to win their final four games. The difference? That was an aging football team who signed role players in the previous offseason. This team is young, hot, and ready to mesh when the time comes. And with an aging Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco, the Browns may be the King of the North sooner than many think.