Cleveland Browns: What now?

After completing the imperfect season the Cleveland Browns have finally hit rock bottom, so what now?


(Photo credit: Erik Drost)

0-16. It’s not a record anyone wants but the Cleveland Browns, after seemingly playing for it these last few years, have finally matched the 2008 Lions in completing a 16-game schedule without registering a single victory.

Sunday was yet another display of throwing away a winning position, and yet another example of everything that has gone wrong with the 2017 Browns.

Despite playing against Pittsburgh’s backups and in cold weather they couldn’t find a way to capitalize on bad mistakes and big plays. Despite clawing their way back to 21-21, and then entering the fourth quarter down just four, the Browns found a way to Browns it up once again.

Duke Johnson, one of the teams few bright spots of 2017, fumbled after a long gain, DeShone Kizer threw yet another interception. On the final drive, on 4th & 2, hope shone for one sparkling moment as Kizer ducked and dodged a sack in impossible fashion. His pass was right on the money as well, but it went straight through Corey Coleman’s hands, off his chest, and fell incomplete.

With the 2017 season done and a new general manager installed you would expect to see the house swept clean and the search for a new head coach to begin, but no…

Teflon Hue

Nothing sticks to Hue Jackson. Not a 1-31 record, not a historically bad red zone offense, not his complete mismanage of DeShone Kizer’s development.

I'm not quite sure what magic Jimmy Haslam is referring to, but there was not a spark of wizardry about the Browns for the last two years.

It's true that Hue Jackson had a good spell in Cincinnati as offensive coordinator, but AJ Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu aren't walking through the door when training camp starts, nor is Andy Dalton, Andrew Whitworth or Giovani Bernard.

While Hue Jackson only had a certain amount of limited talent to work with he has done a terrible job in scheming to the strengths of his players or hiding their weaknesses.

He has been blame-shifting to his players and his GM all season, which was one of the things that ended up making Ben McAdoo's job so untenable in New York.

He refused to run the ball with any consistency despite fielding the worst passing attack in the NFL by a wide, wide margin. The offseason was about building an offensive line that could create lanes and give a quarterback a running game to lean on, but the Browns only called running plays 33% of the time. Injury played some part in that, but when Joe Thomas went down they didn't suddenly flip the script despite missing the best left tackle of his generation.

Hue Jackson wasn't the only problem, but he was certainly a major one.

Moving forward

The Browns have an owner in Jimmy Haslam that keeps not only moving the goal posts but also seems to intentionally put obstacles in the way of his gm and head coach.

Both Glenn Dorsey and Hue Jackson will be reporting to him from now on, making the relationship between Dorsey and Jackson fraught already. Then there was a story saying that Dorsey wanted to hire an offensive coordinator, something Jackson has refused to do so far. Jackson suggested in a press conference that was nonsense and if any coaching hire was going to be made he would be doing it.

With the first and fourth overall picks in the 2018 Draft the Browns are in the strongest position any team has ever been to improve, but there are already reports of quarterbacks considering staying in school to avoid going to Cleveland, and with such a stubborn head coach there is no guarantee that the picks work out.

Hue Jackson has talked about having to win fans over and earn their support again, but the Browns need to do more than just that. They need to win the respect of the NFL back. The respect of its teams, analysts, and every fan. Jacksonville have done that in recent years, the Rams are doing it seemingly overnight. Even the Lions managed it after their own 0-16 mess.

Cleveland can do it too, but not with Hue Jackson, and not with Jimmy Haslam getting more involved in the team. A lot can change from one year to the next, but after surviving Black Monday, Jackson needs to learn and grow. Haslam needs to look in the mirror, and Dorsey needs to steel himself for a fight, because it looks like this franchise is going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the pit of dispair it has been in for so many years.

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Toby Durant

Deputy Editor at RealSport. A life-long gamer, I have been with RealSport since 2016 and spent time covering the world of Formula 1, NFL, and football for the site before expanding into esports.

 

I lead the site's coverage of motorsport titles with a particular focus on Formula 1. I also lead RealSport's Madden content while occasionally dipping my toe into Football Manager and esports coverage of Gfinity Series events.

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