The question surrounding most NFL teams at the start of each season is one of the following:
Can the team win the Super Bowl?
Can it get to the Super Bowl?
Can it win its division?
Can it reach the playoffs as a wild card?
Can it have a winning season?
Can it significantly improve over last season?
Then there’s the Browns.
None of those questions apply.
Before the Browns can even hope to be good enough to be asked any of those above questions, the most important question of all must be answered:
Do these guys know what they’re doing?
This is Year 2 of the Browns’ revolutionary (if it works)/hare-brained (if it doesn’t), envelope-pushing, strategy-reimaging, out-of-the-box, over-the-rainbow, around-the-bend approach to gridiron glory.
Hey nothing else has worked, so why not?
Call it Think Tank Football.
While the rest of us eat, sleep and scratch ourselves, Browns Brainiacs are hard at work, tirelessly trying to build a better mousetrap. Or, at least, a passing game.
You know, before the legendarily impatient mayor of Haslamville runs out of patience.
Step one last year was not a pretty sight. The team’s Nutty Professors took what was the worst team in the NFL and made it worse. Stripped it down to the studs — and then threw the studs away. They took a 3-13 cold sore and turned it into a 1-15 open wound.
Ready, set, REBUILD!
These are not your father’s Browns front office executives — which may not be such a bad thing, actually. Browns Brainiacs are traipsing down the road less taken.
At its best, it’s an analytics-fueled trundle down an unmarked gravel road back onto Respectability Highway and — dare we say it — beyond.
But first: Year 2.
This is the year we need to see concrete signs that this latest rebuilding plan is not written with invisible ink.
The Brainiacs need to prove, through a season-long series of good decisions, and positive outcomes from previous decisions, that, yes, this group appears to know what it’s doing.
For that to happen, the team needs to win on the field, and the non-uniformed personnel needs to win off the field.
That’s a lot of winning to ask from an organization that has been bloated with losing over the last 18 years. But if you profess to be the smartest guys in the room, now’s the time to prove it.
The mulligan that was given in that monstrous 1-15 calamity a year ago is no longer available. The Browns Brainiacs are on the clock, and the ticking is deafening.
DeShone Kizer needs to be the real thing, or at least show enough to indicate he has a chance to become a big thing. Because we’re all tired of watching little things. Indeed, no decision is bigger, or has been more consistently botched by previous Browns decision makers, than that of finding a quarterback of whom the franchise can say — no matter how debris-strewn the rest of the roster is — “Well, at least we have a quarterback.”
If nothing else happens this year but a Kizer coming out party, it’s a win for The Brainiacs.
What they better hope doesn’t happen: Kizer flops and Carson Wentz and/or Mitch Trubisky flourish.
The Think Tank traded away from Wentz last year. This year, Team Tank had the draft picks with which to trade up to No. 2 to draft Trubisky. But they didn’t, because they were either asleep at the switch, or they truly felt Trubisky was just a guy, while Kizer was THE Guy.
Year 2 will throw some light on that decision. If the Brainiacs were right, good for them. If they were wrong, bad for Cleveland.
The calling card of the Browns’ Think Tank is its obsession with collecting draft picks. That’s fine, if those picks are used wisely — and Myles Garrett doesn’t count. Garrett was a Brainiacs no-brainer. Let’s see what the rest of the draft produces in Year 2 for the Think Tank.
They could use a rebound, because the Brock Osweiler fiasco seemed to indicate a major miscalculation by somebody with an office on Lou Groza Boulevard. Your post-fiasco summary: the Browns either paid $16 million for a second-round draft pick (what?), or they are paying Osweiler $16 million to NOT be their quarterback in 2017 (wait, what?).
In reality, it’s both.
Let’s just say the Brainiacs have had better days.
Nobody said Moneyball, football style, was going to be all seashells and balloons.
Last year’s 1-15 debacle proved that.
For the new regime, it was only Year 1. Or, if you like, Year 1-15.
But a new season is upon us. The Browns did do some good things since last year, such as fortifying the offensive line. But a lot still needs to be done. The Brainiacs are on the clock.