Are you a fan of the Cleveland Browns? Yes? Well, you’re about to have the worst autumn of your entire life.
Now, obviously the national pundits’ predictions for Cleveland’s upcoming season aren’t that blunt and soul-crushing. However, they certainly aren’t pretty.
Sift through the myriad of power rankings published this week and you won’t find the Browns landing higher than 31. Many among the NFL media have essentially assumed the team is heading into 2016 with the sole purpose of tanking for next year. Brian Billick is currently waxing on and on about how it’s impossible to see Cleveland winning a single game this year.
The team’s too young. The schedule’s too brutal. Robert Griffin III is doomed to fail. The defense is a sieve. Coach Hue Jackson should save time and just start scouting Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson now.
To sum it up – if you support the Browns and are looking for anyone outside the organization to say something positive, I’d suggest doing something more productive with your time.
Yet, despite the endless wave of doom and gloom, I’m here to tell you it’s not all that bad. No, you won’t find any playoff predictions here, and I certainly am not one of the thousands of people who bet on the Browns to win the Super Bowl.
What I mean to say is that there’s actually a benefit to all these dreadful forecasts for Cleveland. You can see this as a collective shot to the morale of anyone within the Browns’ locker room, or you can view as a simple fact there’s literally nowhere else for this team to go but up.
Trust me, I’ve followed Cleveland football since I was a pup. I’m well aware the Browns can almost instinctively always find a way to get worse.
Despite this, I can’t recall the last time everyone unanimously determined the team was this bad heading into a season.
Consider, though, the fact that while expectations are below the bottom of the barrel nationally, they really aren’t that much higher within Cleveland. You could actually argue the Browns are facing the least amount of local pressure in quite some time.
The city is still basking in the glow of the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ championship run, while also collectively planning for playoff baseball. Combine this with the fact the Browns’ new front office has been as straightforward as possible in letting you know the rebuild is officially on, and you can see why the team shouldn’t feel as though everyone is fully expecting a huge season.
It sounds mean, sure, but it’s the honest truth. Cleveland is a football town. Even in the best days of LeBron James‘ first tenure with the Cavs, the highest pressure was always on the Browns to succeed.
This year, said pressure really isn’t there. Sure, fans want to see winning football. At the same time, almost all of them are anticipating this year to be full of growing pains. The often exceedingly heavy weight and expectations the entire town thrusts upon the Browns literally couldn’t be lighter.
This is also the case because, honestly, it can’t get much worse than last year.
Sure, it could speaking strictly from a win-loss record standpoint. But from a laughably incompetent GM running a terribly coached team led by a quarterback who surprised anyone anytime he didn’t show up to practice hungover or still drunk standpoint? Yeah, it’s going to take a lot to get worse than that.
So yes, it stinks to hear everyone rain down insults and miserable predictions on the 2016 Browns. At the same time, the team is literally expected to be a colossal failure. Progress isn’t an above .500 record, it’s simply signs the players are all collectively moving in the right direction. With a roster filled with first- and second-year players, this certainly seems like an achievable goal.
See? Players and fans shouldn’t look at everyone’s negative predictions as proof this season is going to be unbearable. Just look at it as giving the Browns that much more of an opportunity to surprise you.*
*I’m fully aware my feelings on this matter may drastically change by Week 5 at the latest, forcing me to deal with numerous ‘told you so’ moments