The Browns entered this season without expectations under first-year head coach Hue Jackson and a non-traditional front office looking to change the fortunes of the NFL’s rag tag franchise of misfit toys.
For fans, the expectations were even lower and for the media, well, some had the team not winning a single game.
This season was expected to be difficult, to a degree painful and maybe even a tad miserable which really isn’t anything different from what it’s been like since the team returned in 1999. If it hasn’t been incompetence, it’s been injury that has derailed season after season after season for the lovable losers of the NFL.
This year it is the latter and at this rate they are going to need body-bags soon.
The news of Corey Coleman breaking his hand during Wednesday’s practice was just more salt in a gaping wound and another what else is new moment for Browns fans. Call it bad luck, a curse, whatever you want, but what has happened to the Browns in the last 2 1/2 weeks is downright cruel and unusual punishment.
Robert Griffin III, Jackson’s personal reclamation project, broke a bone in his left shoulder with less than 4 minutes to play in a game that was already decided Week 1 at Philadelphia. They barely got a single game out of Griffin, who came with an extensive injury history before placing him on injured reserve. He may or may not be back in 2016. They’ll find out in another 2-2 1/2 weeks. Even if he returns, the Browns obviously know they can’t depend on him to be the long-term solution that they at one time prayed for him to be.
The quarterback many believed the Browns should have taken instead of trading the No. 2 pick to Philadelphia, Carson Wentz, predictably threw for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Browns in the season opener. On top of that Wentz went to Chicago and was just as impressive on Monday Night Football for the entire country to see. If it weren’t for a few drops on some beautifully thrown deep balls to his receivers, Wentz would’ve lit up the box score. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that he’s 2-0. The Browns are 0-2 and onto their third quarterback while holding the Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick, which decreases in value with every Wentz win.
In Week 2 the Browns took a 20-0 lead on the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter, didn’t score another point and lost 25-20. Not surprisingly, as awful as the collapse was it was only spectacular enough to rank as the third-worst in team history.
In the loss to the Ravens, veteran quarterback Josh McCown sustained a left shoulder injury in the first quarter that will keep him out for an undetermined amount of time. He played through the pain but guts did not bring glory. After the game McCown held back tears as he talked about why it was so important that he stayed in the game – his hard-working father and 2 boys that play football and needing to teach them what toughness means.
The Browns’ top 2 performing picks from their massive 2016 draft class are now injured. Defensive end Carl Nassib broke his hand in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Ravens and now Coleman goes down with a similar injury. Both are out an undetermined amount of time. Coleman was coming off of his first 100-yard receiving game and first 2 NFL touchdowns while Nassib began showing what a nightmare he can be for opposing offensive lineman to deal with in 6-plus quarters.
Center Cameron Erving is also out indefinitely with a bruised lung causing a seismic shift on the offensive line just in time for the one player the Browns did not want to play this season – third round pick and former USC quarterback Cody Kessler – to start Sunday at Miami. Kessler gets to face a defensive front that includes Mario Williams, Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh which already places him in danger of becoming the 26th tombstone added to the Browns QB cemetery and left tackle Joe Thomas may have to introduce himself to Charlie Whitehurst in the huddle mid-game.
Before Jackson and the front office can get their plan off the ground the injury bug is taking a big ole wrecking ball to it. The reality is that the growth and development hoped for, if not expected, this season now suffers through no fault of their own as the body count grows.
None of this surprises Browns fans who never run out of opportunities to say, “It can’t get worse, right?” And then it does.
Despite all that has already gone wrong, Jackson remains as optimistic, upbeat and confident as ever and it’s doubtful that Coleman’s injury will change that. Jackson will try his best to get every ounce of talent, effort and ability out of what’s left of his team over the next 14 games, but he’s fighting an uphill battle that just doesn’t seem winnable.
Many say coaching the Browns is the worst job in football because what can go wrong, will. Even when good things happen, it’s fleeting and comes crashing down to reality quickly. So far for Jackson there is little evidence to dispute it.
The start to this season is 87 wins and 187 losses in microcosm.
Don’t bother asking if it can get worse because we already know the answer. There’s 14 more games to play and the worst probably has yet to come.