A must-win for an 0-5 team doesn’t exist.
The game Sunday in Tennessee comes about as close as you can get for the Browns.
The schedule only grows more difficult as the daylight disappears, and the Titans are one of three opponents — New York Jets and San Diego Chargers at home — that offer a realistic chance for victory. Sure, the Browns could stun a division rival or the visiting Cowboys next month, just don’t count on it.
The Titans are 2-3 and coming off a win over Miami, but they have a young quarterback in Marcus Mariota and lack stars at receiver. They commit to running the ball, so the Browns should be able to at least hang around and have an opportunity to win late.
The Browns aren’t going to the playoffs and would gladly accept the No. 1 pick in the draft that goes to the team with the worst record, but the season needs to be about more than that. Coach Hue Jackson is trying to change the organization’s losing culture, and that can only be done with wins.
All the progress that was obvious in the close losses to Baltimore, Miami and Washington must be substantiated. Jackson’s focus hasn’t wavered from winning, so the players have to see his plan come to fruition on Sundays.
There isn’t a certain victory total that would make the season a success. Identifying the nucleus of the roster and seeing improvement from key, young pieces are more important.
But there have to be enough wins to make sure the young roster doesn’t view losing as the normal, accepted outcome. The timing is perfect for the first of those.
The Browns had reason to feel good about themselves after having second-half leads in three straight games, but were dealt a giant dose of reality Sunday in the 33-13 home loss to the Patriots. The result was expected, but also startling.
Jackson’s job is to restore the confidence and get his players prepared to face the Titans. Winning should be the only goal.
If rookie quarterback Cody Kessler were completely healthy, it would make sense to keep him as the starter. He’s been much better than expected in three starts after being pressed into service, and the Browns would benefit from seeing him for as many snaps as possible this season.
The Browns will likely have a top-five pick in the draft and will have to decide if they want to use it on a quarterback. A 14-game evaluation of Kessler should be enough to project him as a future starter or backup. (The thought here is his ceiling’s as a high-level backup).
Jackson said Monday there was a “good chance” Kessler would be able to play against Tennessee, and the team remained hopeful Tuesday he’d be able to start.
But it’s a stretch to think Kessler will be 100 percent by Sunday after leaving the Patriots game with chest and ribs injuries and still laboring Monday as he walked through the locker room. So it seems like the perfect opportunity to turn to veteran Josh McCown — assuming he’s cleared after breaking a bone in his left collarbone Sept. 18.
McCown gives the Browns the best chance to win, so the Titans matchup comes at the optimal time. Plus, he’s the ultimate team player and would accept the demotion when Kessler’s healthy and Jackson wants to go back to the rookie.
There’s no need to rush Kessler. He’s got his whole career in front of him.
The loud cheering from too many Patriots fans at FirstEnergy Stadium was obnoxious, but the up-close view of Tom Brady and his greatness was fun to watch. Few quarterbacks have ever stood so tall in the pocket and looked so good distributing the ball around the field. Brady’s 39 years old, so this may have been his final trip to Cleveland. If it was, he made a great final impression on his way to the Hall of Fame.
The Browns need better play from safeties Jordan Poyer, Ibraheim Campbell and rookie Derrick Kindred. They’ve struggled to defend tight ends all season, have given up too many long completions and haven’t forced any turnovers.
It didn’t matter in the grand scheme, but Jackson erred when he went for the 2-point conversion with 14:05 left Sunday. The Browns scored on Charlie Whitehurst’s 17-yard pass to tight end Connor Hamlett to cut the deficit to 30-13. An extra point would’ve made it a 16-point margin — a two-possession game. By going for two and failing, the Browns needed the ball three times for a comeback. The math didn’t work.
I flipped over after the Tribe eliminated Boston in time to see the end of the bad “Monday Night Football” game between Tampa Bay and Carolina. Breaking news: Derek Anderson is still Derek Anderson. The Panthers quarterback, who led the Browns to 10 wins in 2007, made several nice passes, again proving he throws as well as anyone. Then he misread a coverage and threw a game-turning interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.