Why bother coming back? I know NFL players have to or they don’t get paid. But seriously, why bother?
The Cleveland Browns are 0-12. They played host to the New York Giants today, both on the field and in the stands as the majority of FirstEnergy Stadium was covered in blue. To the surprise of nobody who’s watched Cleveland all year long, the team lost again. Thankfully, Browns fans can enjoy a stress-free Sunday next week as their club will mercifully receive a bye.
The season has been an unmitigated disaster, so bad a 4-12 record would no longer be seen as more of the same failure, but instead a real success. The threat of going 0-16 looms greater than ever, and the team now gets an extra week to think about how to prevent this despite it being the most likely outcome of the year.
So, why come back?
Yep, it’s that “getting paid” thing. That’ll make the players return for their December 11 “battle” with the Cincinnati Bengals, at least physically.
Mentally? That’s where the real difficulties lie.
If you’re on this flaming shipwreck of a football team, you get a lengthy breather before having to endure four more games before the worst season in franchise history comes to a close. You’ve yet to taste victory this year and know you probably won’t in these final four contests. You’re laughed at by fans, media and even opposing players on a week-to-week basis.
Would you blame anyone on Cleveland’s roster if they struggled to find the motivation to play the remaining games on the schedule?
There certainly wasn’t much to get thrilled about from today’s defeat, nothing which the team hasn’t dealt with plenty of times this year. Awful tackling, back-breaking turnovers, a brief moment where it appeared there was a chance to stay in the game right before the opponent blew it wide open. No need to specify who the Browns played, as this description accurately describes just about every Sunday this fall, today’s as well.
With that in mind, what’s keeping the players motivated to return after the bye?
The thrill of seeing quarterback Robert Griffin III return to the field? Perhaps. However, he fended off the criticism about his lack of durability for a whole three quarters this season, so it’s tough to get excited about his potential in the long run.
Or maybe just pride in general? The players still seem to believe in and support coach Hue Jackson, and likely don’t want to keep being the butt of every football-related joke. You could certainly make a case that they’ll want to return just to try and prevent a winless season from taking place.
That said, 14 days between games is a long time to think about things. Right now, most Browns players are likely wondering what it’d be like to be a part of the worst team in the history of the NFL. A team which will have lost every single game, even in the preseason. A team which could claim even a close defeat only a couple times this year.
Sure, this outcome still hasn’t come into fruition. But, if you’re a Brown, you know it’s incredibly possible. And getting a bye this late into such a deflating season, a week off from lopsided scoreboards and nationwide mocking? You seriously have to wonder if players will have a tough time finding the motivation play out the string.
Lord knows I would. Hell, I’m mentally drained just thinking of having to watch the last four games of the year, so I can only imagine what it’s like to have to play in them.
Yet, that’s the challenge for Cleveland. The team is four losses away from a historically terrible year, and has an extra two weeks to think about it. With that being said, you can see how having the mental tenacity to pull yourself away from the comfort of a week off and eek through a few more rough Sundays is a task which will likely be rough for the players to overcome.