The Cleveland Browns are tanking the 2016 season.
They’re not even going to try to win a game this year.
At least that’s the narrative coming from the national media outlets led by one of the NFL’s flagship media partners – ESPN.
Do not tell that to Browns players, coaches, executives and especially don’t say that to quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“This game is all about wins and losses, and we are here to win. We are not here to lose. We are not here to rebuild or anything else,” Griffin said Wednesday as the team ramped up preparations for Sunday’s opener in Philadelphia. “We are here to win. Every time we step out there on that field, every time we go to practice, watch tape, we are watching it with a winning mindset and we have to go play with that same mindset.”
ESPN, NFL Network, Bleacher Report – you name the outlet and they are flat out crushing the Browns on a national level from their approach to constructing the team to what the end result for the season will be.
Tuesday night, Jimmy Fallon – host of NBC’s the Tonight Show – tried to take another shot at the Browns during his ‘Pros and Cons of the start of the NFL season’ bit, but the joke fell flat.
Suffice it to say the Browns all of a sudden have a chip on their shoulder as they prepare to travel to Philadelphia for the season opener Sunday.
“We are a group of men that are hungry,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “We hope to have this chip on our shoulder as long as I’m here.”
Left tackle Joe Thomas, who has seen the Browns finish with a winning record just once – 10-6 in his 2007 rookie season, understands the long-term approach the organization is taking.
“We’re trying to build a young team with a lot of young, talented players,” Thomas said. “You can’t let yourself think too deeply about what someone else is thinking.”
The Browns have cast off aging veterans with a hefty price tag that frankly did not help the team turn the corner over the last 3-4 seasons, and so the net has been cast in a new direction.
Sure, the youth movement has saved the Browns over $40 million in salary this season and opened up over $52 million in salary cap space but the team isn’t going to pay premium dollars for under-performing veterans that may or may not get with their program.
And so they also don’t seem the least bit interested in wasting any time or breath on outsiders unable to comprehend what it is that they are really trying to accomplish or do. But trying to lose is not it.
Say What? – Former Ravens coach and current NFL Network analyst Brian Billick tweeted Wednesday the Browns are 0-16 bound.
“You’ll dismiss this as “Billick just trashing the Browns again” but seriously…look at schedule & find a single win. You can’t do it,” Billick tweeted. He followed that up with: “If they go into Philly and win…I’ll wear a #Browns jersey to open @NFLGameDay show for week 2.”
Jackson was clearly taken aback by Billick’s tweets when asked about them.
“Who said what? “Wow. Good for him,” Jackson said. “I didn’t know he worked here. Just being honest. Nothing against Brian. I think it’s really [unfair] that everybody can comment on other people’s teams and don’t understand how we’re working. Great respect for Brian. He was a great coach in this league. We’ll see if that’s true. We’ll look back after 16 games and see if he was right. But I’m not going to get caught up in that.
“I don’t want anyone to say we can’t win anything. I just don’t think it’s right or fair. I know how hard we’ve worked. But we’ve got to go and prove it.”
The Crow’s 1K – Running back Isaiah Crowell has set the bar high for this season.
“I want to run for 1,000 yards,” Crowell said. “That’s my personal goal, but the main goal is helping my team win, whatever they need me to do for us to get the W.”
Jackson has had high praise for Crowell and fellow back Duke Johnson since taking over in January as head coach and he laughed when told of Crowell’s goal.
“Only 1,000? Why not more,” Jackson said. “I like Crow. He’s a talented player.”
Crowell is coming off a season that saw him run for 706 yards and 4 touchdowns in 16 games that included 9 starts in 2015.
“It’s on us as players to go out there and execute,” Crowell said. “That’s basically it because the reason why we didn’t run [well] last year was because there wasn’t enough execution for whatever reason. That’s what it is and I feel we gotta go out there and establish a good running game.”
Quote of the Day – “I’m an endangered species,” Joe Thomas joked when asked about the 17 rookies that made this year’s team.
Injury Report – DID NOT PRACTICE: CB Marcus Burley (groin), LT Joe Thomas (not injury related); FULL: DB Tracy Howard (hamstring), WR Ricardo Louis (hamstring), CB Tramon Wlliams (toe)