BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – With the Browns 1-19 since the grand tear-down and rebuild adventure began in 2016, serious questions about the plan have arisen.
It’s hard to say much of anything is working, but Browns executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown isn’t flinching in his belief that it is.
“We’re committed to continuing to work toward building this roster and becoming a perennial playoff team, and we’re on the way toward that,” Brown said Wednesday.
Nevermind that the Browns have already all but been officially eliminated from playoff contention as we approach the second weekend in October. No one expected the playoffs this year, but a win here or there throughout the season and finishing with 4 or 5 of them by January didn’t seem all that unrealistic.
With the first 4 weeks in the books, now it feels like 2016 all over again and that just 1 win could be a gigantic ask.
“We were realistic when we took over in January 2016 of where we were,” Brown said. “We understood this was going to be a challenging build. While we’re disappointed, primarily for our fans about the results so far through the first 20 games of our tenure here, we’re committed to turning this thing around and we’re not shying away from what our record is but at the same time we’re determined, resilient about where we’re headed and we do see some of the progress being made on the field.
“It’s not good enough yet. We’re not satisfied by any stretch but both Hue and I were realistic about where we were, where we are and where we’re going.”
The Browns, who have drafted 24 players the last 2 years, are in the midst of a historically inept era – not just in franchise history, but in league history. Since beating the Ravens in Baltimore on Oct. 11, 2015 33-30 in overtime they have gone 2-29, which matches the worst 31-game stretch in NFL history according to Elias.
“We’re not at the end of our build by any stretch, not that any team is ever there,” Brown said.
One would hope not.
Brown maintains that all is well behind the scenes between he and head coach Hue Jackson and that owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam remain steadfast in their support despite the fact the team continues to pile up losses at a historic rate.
“We all want this to happen as soon as possible,” Brown said. “But we’re also conscientious about paying attention to some of the underlying signs. I’m not going to get into details of the discussions that we have, but Jimmy was realistic when we started in 2016 about where we were and are too.”
The Browns currently have the youngest team in the league with an average age hovering around 25 years old. Of the 53 players on the roster, 47 have been added since 2016 and 38 of them have 2 or fewer years of NFL experience.
“Growth and development of our roster is not going to happen in this league overnight,” Brown said. “We’re not going to stray just because we have some challenges or adversity early on.”
Receiver is the most glaring hole on the roster. Brown replaced 3 of the 6 players at the position on the cut down to 53 the weekend of Sept. 2 and 3.
Veteran Kenny Britt, who signed a 4-year, $32.5 million contract in the offseason that included $17 million in guaranteed money, has been a major disappointment catching just 8 of 23 targets for 121 yards with a touchdown in 4 games while last year’s first round pick Corey Coleman was lost for at least 8 weeks after breaking another bone in his right hand.
“Our wide receivers can play better and I think they will,” Brown said. “We’re not going to overreact too much early.”
Brown also added that “you have seen some guys have some performances that raise some eyebrows in a positive direction” which may have been the most puzzling comment of the day considering the lack of production from the group and the fact that Jackson has had to turn to Duke Johnson – a running back – to lead the team in targets and receptions this season.
Brown pinned the Browns’ inability to run the ball through 4 games on the fact that teams are anticipating that Johnson and Isaiah Crowell are going to get carries and so they gameplan to stop it.
“They are going to challenge us to throw,” Brown said. “We will meet that challenge. We want to be balanced on offense, but we are also going to have to be complementing the run game with a passing offense that is more effective. Until we get to that point, I think you are going to see people stack against us and try to take the run away.”
Right now things are pretty ugly and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight – or many wins on the horizon – but Brown believes that they really are on the right track.
“We are always going to be focused on the underlying progress, how some of our players are coming together and what those losses look like,” Brown said. “We are disappointed so far. We are not going to get into trying to project into hypotheticals, but we have 12 opportunities. We want to win all 12. We are going to prepare to win all 12. If that happens, that happens. If it doesn’t, we will deal with that at the time.”