As we get started on another Browns season, let’s synchronize our watches. Under the ownership of the Haslams, the Browns’ record is now 59-113. I offer that without comment.
But if you insist, here’s a comment:
That’s a winning percentage of .343 or, if you prefer, a losing percentage of .657.
It’s also why Browns fans are the greatest fans in the NFL. Because despite all that losing, they still care. Rabidly so.
Indeed, the start of this Browns season is tinged with more than just a touch of over-the-top optimism. This year feels different. Or maybe it’s just the humidity.
Either way, Browns fans are picking up good vibrations. This season cannot get started fast enough, which is a refreshing change from all those Browns seasons that couldn’t end fast enough.
Game 1, Week 1 is Sunday, at home, against Cincinnati. Joe Burrow vs. Deshaun Watson, an hour after high noon.
Anticipation? You bet. So much so that it’s almost to the point that many hyperventilating Browns fans may have to resort to breathing into paper bags as Sunday’s kickoff approaches.
The roster has undergone its yearly overhaul, but this time team management seems to have gotten it right. On defense, all the defenders who shouldn’t be back this year aren’t, and all the caliber of players who should have replaced them, have. At least that’s the way it looks on paper.
Last year’s defensive clown show has been largely gutted and replaced, led by new ringmaster Jim Schwartz, a defensive coordinator who, in addition to bringing order to, and subtracting chaos from a unit in need of both, also seems to ooze the one gridiron gene the Browns organization overall has lacked since returning to the NFL after the Baltimore hijacking nearly 30 years ago:
It’s a quality that has never been more important in professional sports than it is today. It’s also a quality that has never been more important for Cleveland’s pro football franchise, which has suffered through decades of poor leadership from ownership on down, dating from mid-era Art Modell to the present.
You win with leaders, and you lose without them. The Browns’ current ownership hasn’t exactly been a beacon of leadership, going all the way back to the decision to hire a coach who led the team to a record of 0-16 one year, then re-grouped the next year and went 1-15.
Coaches, of course, come and go, unless you have a really good one, in which case you give him a really good contract that will keep him around for a really long time.
What makes a good coach? I’d put leadership at the top of the list, followed, in no particular order, by leadership and leadership.
For example (look away, Browns fans): the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin.
For not example: all the Browns’ coaches, with the exception of Paul Brown, Blanton Collier, Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Belichick.
I’m still on the fence about Kevin Stefanski’s leadership skills. Watching him on the sidelines he rarely exhibits leadership body language, occupied as he is with his headset and play-calling duties.
On the other hand, Stefanski’s serene sideline demeanor is not unlike that of Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose resume, and Super Bowl trophies, suggest he’s a Hall of Fame-caliber leader.
Good leadership by a coach and his staff is even more important when a team’s ownership is leadership-challenged. The Browns’ won-loss record under the current ownership speaks for itself, which puts an even greater priority on the importance of leadership from others.
Leadership is also important — probably most important of all — on the field, during games. Starting with the coach, but it also includes his staff, plus contributions from players on the team, preferably the better ones. Specifically, veteran players who have been in the league for a while and can mentor and lead younger players.
A player like Myles Garrett should have enough on-the-field credibility to be an exceptional leader, but, unfortunately, some un-leadership-like missteps off it that raise some doubts.
Hall of Famer Joe Thomas was a great leader, but great leadership is useless on teams that can’t play.
Then, of course, there is the one player on every football team whose job description specifically calls on him to be a leader: the quarterback.
The quarterback may be the team’s most important leader of all, including — during the game itself — the head coach. Quarterbacks get paid to lead. It’s as much a part of their job as throwing passes and quarterback sneaking for a first down on fourth-and-1.
Which brings us to Deshaun Watson, and the high price of leadership. In this case the going rate was $230 million. Half of it is for being great, the other half is for leading great.
For the quarterback especially, the team in general and the organization overall, lack of leadership can no longer be tolerated.