by Ken Carman
Listen to The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima weekday mornings from 6 am-10 am on 92.3 The Fan
YOU HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO CALL IT TANKING. I HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO TELL YOU, YOU’RE WRONG.
It’s become old hat to say that there’s something different with this regime. Not exactly THIS regime, but every new regime that takes over the Cleveland Browns.
There’s a different feel. A new level of accountability. A new…whatever. It happens every time. It’s happened so often, I’ve felt like I’ve fooled myself too often in the past, when in truth, I just didn’t realize that accountability was gone until it was too late.
Admittedly I tried to be ahead of the curve last year during training camp, but there was still something that kept me from wanting to admit the truth. That last year was going to be rough. That people were going to lose their jobs again, and that we were going to go through changes all over again.
Fans and callers told me. My other hosts told me, but man, I just didn’t want to believe them. It’s made me a little gun-shy since. Fans and media get a lot of things wrong, but we all want to be right, but so often with the Browns when we think it’s finally going in the right direction, we get nervous as it comes out of our mouth. It’s gone straight to Hell so many times before, I’m honestly terrified to give a little faith.
That’s why I tremble to write this sentence, but here goes: The Browns are headed in the right direction.
Nearly 20 years in, and the Browns are finally headed in the right direction. No more texting to the sidelines, or fights about hungover quarterbacks or petty arguments over running backs on the roster. The Browns…are finally headed in the right direction.
I know this because they’re not going to win very much this year. So many folks are going to call that tanking. They have every right to. It simplifies things. You can say that the Browns are tanking, and most will just go right along with you.
But, you’d be wrong.
You’d be wrong because the Browns are starting this season with 13 drafted players on the active roster. You’d be wrong because Robert Griffin III is starting in the only place that would have him. You’d be wrong because the Browns cut Paul Kruger, and then traded Andy Lee. You’d because you picked them to win only three, or two, or even just one game in 2016.
All those look like “tanking reasons.” Nope. Couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Browns have often been compared to the 76ers in basketball. Again, wrong.
The Browns won’t be upset if they win any games this season. The front office just won’t be upset if they don’t. Hue Jackson will seethe. Carl Nassib, a rookie even spoke at length about how much he hates to lose. In the ultimate team game, a tanking attitude is what got you to this level in the first place.
You’ve been tanking. Now you’re on the right track.
Any playing time is going to be valuable for a team so young. They could have traded Josh McCown for a third or a fourth round pick. The Browns didn’t. They kept him to mentor young players, and be a stop gap if needed between Robert Griffin III and Cody Kessler.
The Browns have kept anyone they believe can grow, or can help grow their football team. They’ve eliminated dead weight. Let me ask you, what’s closer to tanking: Making excuses for an 8th overall pick about why he should stay on the team, or knowing that player has done nothing but cost your team and trading him for any value at all?
Again, this is not a tanking team.
The Browns have been mired in losing to a degree where that losing has become a point of pride to those with Stockholm Syndrome. The goal of 2016 will be to find players who’ll be committed to the cause of getting better. A lot of which are so young that they don’t know any better. Who have no preconceived notions of the franchise other than to know that they’ve lost a ton of games. They don’t know the in-fighting, or the drama. They don’t know about the defensive coordinator who was more concerned over radio comments than he was about his last place defense. They don’t know about the offensive coordinator with the power point presentation to get out of his contract.
Again, this team is not tanking.
If you’ve made it this far in the article, and still believe this Browns team is actually tanking, this is about the time you’re thinking about the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.
Yep. They tanked and they got Andrew Luck. What have they really got since though?
The Colts traded a first round pick for Trent Richardson. They immediately went out and drafted small wide receivers while their offensive line crumbled, leaving their biggest investment to be injured so badly he had a lacerated spleen of all things, and forcing pundits to wonder if he’s overrated since he has to throw the ball so often to win anything. The Colts defensive picks sucked. Their offensive line has been trash. Jim Irsay is a deplorable owner, and Ryan Grigson has drafted a Madden team instead of actual football players (although in his defense, it’s probably at his meddling owner’s behest).
The only difference between the Browns and the Colts is Andrew Luck. How nice it would be to have that kind of security blanket like Luck to cover up for my franchise’s stupid mistakes.
Yep. The Colts tanked. The Browns can’t.
Just like there was no Luck in the 2015 draft. There isn’t one in 2016’s draft. There won’t be in 2017 either. A once in a generation prospect is once in a generation. DeShawn Watson or Kizer or Kaaya could be good, but none of those have the hype that Luck had. You can’t guarantee any of those players were going to be wonderful or terrible, but you can’t just throw an entire season away on one of them.
One of those quarterbacks (if the Browns draft one next Spring) will need help. He will need help from players already in the system. That quarterback will need help from capable SECOND OR THIRD year players to acclaimate himself better.
Again, say it with me now, THE BROWNS ARE NOT TANKING.
They can’t afford to. The clock has already started against this Browns team. We’ve already looked at other quarterback prospects from this past draft and wondered why the Browns didn’t take them. There’s also a culture that is trying to be established by players who actually hate losing. Not players like Dwayne Bowe who stood on the sideline and collected $9 million (a signing President Sashi Brown argued against in his previous role).
To make it so apparent that you’re trying to lose on purpose is suicide for a young football team. The Browns will be evaluating for 2017 during all of 2016. Looking at those willing to pay the price to be paid a price in the NFL. This will have to be a resurrection of a football program, not an organization. It can’t be work to players, it will have to be a passion. One for a group of players who will look back at 2016 with distain, but with purpose, or else suffer the same fate as generations of worthless Browns players and teams since 1999. No more free checks for free agents. No more back patting to rookies for showing up to work.
A tank job is for a team without any other plan. The Browns most certainly have shown us that they have one.
This plan that the Browns have devised is not a perfect one. It’s a minefield from here. A quarterback taken in the future can end up imploding. Leaving this effort nearly useless. Draft picks made this year could not materialize (It’s obviously happened before). Or the worst case scenario, Jimmy Haslam could listen too much to the inevitable calls for jobs that will happen and fire the front office prematurely. Any plan like the Browns are trying to execute is going to take some time. You’ll be frustrated, like we all will. And there will be many, many people calling for jobs. It’s bound to happen. You’ve waited a very long time for a winner, and it’s no fun to be told you’re going to have to wait much longer.
This will look worse before it actually gets better for the Browns. But for the first time in a long time, it’s on the right track. The Browns won’t win a lot of games this year at all. But they’re not tanking.