Last year: 5-11, last place in AFC North
Acquisitions: Paul Kruger, Davone Bess, Barkevious Mingo, Desmond Bryant, Jason Campbell, Shayne Graham
Departures: Josh Cribbs, Phil Dawson, Seneca Wallace, Benjamin Watson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Usama Young
Vegas win total over/under: 6 wins
Five pointless and insincere attempts at cheering up Browns fans:
– Because your new GM is buddies with Bill Simmons, you can count on Grantland to talk up your team’s awful personnel moves.
– Norv Turner joined your coaching staff. It could be worse. He could be your head coach.
– Your team overpaid for a free agent Ravens linebacker, which is always a bad idea, but they could have overpaid him more, I guess.
– You get to look forward to already drafting another quarterback in the first round next year. And this next one might be younger than 35!
– Art Modell: still dead and still not in the Hall of Fame! Yay!
Fan forecast, with Cleveland Frowns:
With Mike Holmgren, Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert now gone, Truck Stop Royalty and the Jimmy Haslam Era sets on in full in Cleveland in 2013. That the feds are chomping at the bit to indict Haslam for fraud is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this guy’s candidacy for Worst Human to Own an NFL Franchise, so naturally Roger Goodell wants you to know that “Jimmy Haslam is a man of great integrity” whom the NFL “is proud to have” as an owner. Let any doubts about the league’s role in our dystopian future be resolved by these assholes, and don’t worry, because if Jimmy gets convicted he’ll just pass the franchise on to his dad.
Which makes it the perfect time for the Browns to have as much talent on their roster as they’ve had in years, because as soon as this team manages to win as many as seven games in a season, Northeast Ohio’s four million residents will become the Haslam family’s drooling slaves. Minus the 2.5 million or so who are Steelers fans, of course.
So could this be the year that the Browns hit that magic seven-win threshold? Why not? Brandon Weeden. Brandon Weeden would be why not. Three other rookie quarterbacks led their teams to the playoffs last season, but the Browns spent a first-round pick on a 29-year old minor league baseball washout whom advanced stats measured in a class with Mark Sanchez as the worst starting QBs in the league by a mile. The kid’s got an arm, though! And the Browns have an excellent offensive line that protected Weeden so well last year that he still managed to put up 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns despite locking onto his primary target on every passing play. In the 30-second intervals that Weeden will have in the pocket to pat the ball nervously and stare at (one of) them, receivers Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Travis Benjamin and Davone Bess should be able to get open. And Trent Richardson should be rejuvenated after having played most of last season with broken ribs. Plus, new head coach Rob Chudzinski was the offensive coordinator the year that Derek Anderson went to the Pro Bowl. And on the other side of the ball, a free agent spending spree means the Browns finally have more than one guy who would get snaps in the Ravens or Steelers front seven, with Joe Haden and TJ Ward there to help hold things down in the secondary.
Which isn’t to suggest that the Cleveland Browns or any team with Mike Lombardi as its GM could possibly be on its way to becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Especially since Haslam and new team CEO Joe Banner have set up the Dallas Cowboys as a model for success. Haslam and Banner took a trip to Dallas last season to meet with Jerry Jones, and, according to Banner, “to maximize our understanding of what a lot of people who are doing really well around the league are doing.” Later, after hiring away a Cowboys exec, Banner called the Cowboys “one of the most successful franchises in the NFL.”
Which is just perfect. To the Truck Stop King who’ll take to a multimillion dollar fraud scheme to squeeze every last dime out of his customers, success is defined by the NFL franchise that’s best at squeezing every last dime out of an increasingly demented fan base (America’s Team!). And if the Browns manage as many playoff wins in the next 16 years as the Cowboys have managed in the last 16 (one!), we’d have to call it an improvement in Cleveland.