Hello and welcome to the 2012 season! If you’re a Browns fan, it’s been quite an entertaining week as new ownership popped up out of nowhere to infuse some energy into training camp.
The Cleveland Browns are at a crossroads as they enter the 2012 season, and I wish I could blow some sunshine into everyone’s faces, but that’s just not a reasonable thing to do. Rather than dwell on the negative (which we will get into in a moment), I’m going to focus on a few positives as the club moves forward into the season.
Reading the various media reports on new owner Jimmy Haslem, the Browns have themselves an owner who is quite different from the outgoing custodian.
Randy Lerner inherited a team he never wanted, and did everything he could to make the team somebody else’s problem. With no safeguards in place and no risk of being held accountable for mistakes or failures, each regime Lerner put in place was doomed to failure because of ego, incompetence, or both.
The only possible penalty people like Phil Savage, Eric Mangini and Mike Holmgren faced was an early dismissal with full pay.
Not a bad job.
Holmgren did bring in current General Manager Tom Heckert, and he seems to be one of the very few in this organization who knows what he is doing and is not just interested in either cashing a paycheck or furthering his own personal agenda ahead of the team goals.
Haslem is by all accounts a hands-on owner who will expect results sooner rather than later. He WANTS to be an NFL owner and he understands the rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers, having sat at the other end of the table for the last few years.
Moving forward, the Browns have their brightest ray of hope since they returned in 1999, and fans can have more than cautious optimism that things might finally turn around. It’s possible nothing changes, but I doubt it. Moreover, we knew what we were getting with Lerner in the owner’s box, and the results this past decade speaks for itself.
As for the present, I have little in the way of bunnies and rainbows. No matter what, this season is going to be rough, and here’s why.
- Injuries: LB Chris Gocong already is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon and DT Phil Taylor will not be back until mid-season at the earliest. That’s two important pieces gone before the first snap has been taken in preseason action.
- Scott Fujita: Suspended for the first three games, that leaves our defense pretty thin on a team with little depth.
- Quarterbacks: We can sit here and talk up Brandon Weeden’s arm all we want, but let’s not go putting him in the Hall of Fame until we see him in a few regular season games. Weeden is a work in progress, and I’m confident he can be successful, but a lot hinges on the coaching staff – which brings me to my next point.
- Pat Shurmur: Shurmur is Romeo Crennel Version 2.0. Shurmur spent most of last season looking like he was completely in over his head, and you should have no problem finding pictures of him on the sideline with a “What just happened?” look on his face. Even with a full offseason, if you can’t handle the job, you can’t handle the job. I don’t think Pat Shurmur can handle the job.
- Schedule: The Browns had a tough schedule last year. This year is not any better. Between the injuries already on the books plus the inevitable injuries to come, the Browns still do not have the depth to compete in this division. It’s going to be a long year.
Not to be all doom and gloom, but this is the reality. So to end on a happier note, I’ll focus on Josh Gordon, our newest wide receiver taken in the supplemental draft last month.
While I was not able to attend training camp personally, a friend of mine was. His observation, and I quote, “The difference between Gordon and (Greg) Little and (Mohamed Massaquoi) was light years. You could hear the ball slapping into Little and Mo Mass’s hands like it was hitting a brick wall. You didn’t hear anything when Gordon caught the ball. It was just in his hands and he was running down the field.”
If rookie RB Trent Richardson lives up to his hype, and the Weeden/Gordon connection starts showing up on highlight reels, fans will know there is a solid core for new ownership to build on.
As a final thought, remember nothing will change overnight, and constant reboots have kept this team mediocre. However, having someone in charge who demands results can change a culture overnight, and once the culture changes, anything is possible.
That being said, I put the over/under on Shurmur being fired at Week 13.