The Browns are as bad as it gets, and other Week 13 thoughts

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It’s not exactly breaking news that the Cleveland Browns are a terrible football team. They’re 0-12 after yesterday’s loss, and they’re a near-lock to earn the first overall pick in the draft for the second consecutive season.

But I don’t know if we’re talking enough about just how historically awful this Browns of the last two years, coached by Hue Jackson with a front office run by General Manager Sashi Brown and Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta, really is.

With yesterday’s loss to the Chargers, the Browns are now 1-27 in their two-year rebuilding effort, in which they were supposedly going to use statistical analysis to find innovative ways to build a roster. (DePodesta has experience doing that in baseball and is a key figure in Moneyball.) That’s not just bad, it’s historically bad: The Browns are as bad as any team has ever been, in the history of the NFL.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1976, and that expansion team is widely regarded as the worst team in NFL history. But the Bucs won two of their first 28 games, so even those Buccaneers, at 2-26, were a game better than these Browns.

Will the whole Moneyball strategy work for the Browns? It’s hard to say because they’ve barely even tried yet: Step One of their strategy has been accumulating lots of draft picks, and they’ve done that well, with trades netting them an extra first-round pick and two extra second-round picks in next year’s draft. But is this team actually any good at using those picks to find good players? And at developing those players once they’re in Cleveland? I have my doubts.

It seems to me that if the Browns’ brain trust knew what they were doing, there would be some signs of progress from Year 1 to Year 2. And I’m not seeing any progress from Cleveland. If there was anything for a Browns fan to be excited about yesterday, it was the emergence of receiver Josh Gordon in his first game back from a lengthy drug suspension. But Gordon is a player the new brain trust inherited, so they can’t get any credit for his accomplishments.

I don’t think Jackson and the front office are a good fit together, and I think after the season the Browns need to either fire Jackson or give him enough personnel authority to sign or draft the quarterback he wants.

Or maybe Browns owner Jimmy Haslam just needs to fire everyone and start a big rebuilding effort all over again. That sounds like a mess, but 1-27 is already a mess.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:

The NFL is weirdly restrictive about online access to its content. The NFL is often criticized by fans for being behind the NBA and MLB in allowing fans access to content online. A good example of that came up on Sunday with this complaint from a fan who was blocked from using the NFL’s streaming service because he was at a game. “Looks like you’re in or near a stadium,” the message on the device said. “Due to NFL rules, streaming on your device is not available.” That’s a ridiculous rule. Fans who both pay for tickets to games and pay for access to the NFL’s streaming service are the league’s best customers. Why would a company want to deny its best customers access to its product? The NFL needs to enter the 21st Century.

The Chiefs have problems, but Alex Smith is the least of them. Despite calls to bench Smith for Patrick Mahomes, Smith was excellent yesterday against the Jets: He had 366 yards and four touchdowns passing, ran for 70 yards and had no turnovers. Yet the Chiefs still lost 38-31 to the Jets. The Chiefs’ defense, which let Jets receivers Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson each go over 100 yards, is an absolute mess. Kansas City’s best defensive player, Eric Berry, was lost for the season in Week One, and far from figuring out how to replace him, they seem to be getting worse on defense down the stretch. Kansas City may still win the AFC West, but it’s hard to see them winning in the playoffs. That’s the fault of the defense, not Smith.

Rob Gronkowski should be suspended. Gronk’s cheap shot on Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White was a blatantly illegal hit on an opponent who was totally unsuspecting, long after the play was over. If that’s not the kind of thing that gets a player suspended, what is?

Teams still don’t understand late-game strategy. One of the things that fascinates me about NFL teams is how often they make obvious strategic mistakes late in games. I don’t mean things you can second-guess after the fact, I mean things that happen that as they’re happening, I immediately ask what they were thinking. Take the Titans at the end of yesterday’s win over the Texans: With Tennessee ahead by four points and less than a minute left in the game, Derrick Henry ran for a 75-yard touchdown. That might seem like a great play, but it really wasn’t: A better play would have been to run just far enough to pick up the first down, then go down so the Titans could run out the clock, as the Texans were out of timeouts. Then, after Henry’s touchdown, the Titans kicked the extra point. That was a mistake, because the extra point could have been blocked, the Texans could have run it back for two points, and that would have made it a one-possession game. The Titans should have simply kneeled down on the conversion attempt. With all the money NFL teams spend on hiring the best coaches and the best players and the best personnel people, you’d think they’d hire someone who understands late-game decision making and advises the coaches appropriately.

Jim Caldwell should be on the hot seat. Caldwell signed a contract extension with the Lions before this season, so perhaps his job is safe. But it shouldn’t be. In a year when the Vikings, Packers and Bears all had to change quarterbacks due to injuries or ineffectiveness, the Lions, with the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL in Matthew Stafford, should be able to win the NFC North. Instead, Sunday’s loss to the Ravens makes it a near certainty that the Lions won’t win their division or make it to the playoffs as a wild card, either. That’s on Caldwell, who admitted after the game that he hasn’t done a good coaching job this season. Lions General Manager Bob Quinn has to think seriously about replacing Caldwell next month.

53 responses to “The Browns are as bad as it gets, and other Week 13 thoughts

  1. .
    It’s actually hard to fathom that a team that has had QB problems for decades would pass on Wentz and Goff one year and Trubiski and Watson the next. But, the Browns braintrust treats the QB position like linebacker or guard. It’s just another position to be filled.

    The importance of the QB position was on display yesterday when Jimmy Garopollo led the talent barren 49ers to a road win in Chicago. His mere presence on the field made his teammates better players.
    .

  2. Regarding late game strategy – MDS’s example is one the more complicated issues compared to the more simple clock management errors occurring with regularity. Obvivously head coaches have a lot of things to keep up with during a game. Why not have the equivalent of a bench coach whose main function is to advise the HC on timeout usage, accepting/not accepting penalties, etc.?

  3. I can’t blame Hue Jackson because he’s been calling for a football scout for two years. He’s not complaining about stockpiling picks. He’s just saying that an experienced football scout should be helping decide what to do with all those picks.

  4. Rich Kotite can move over because I think it’s safe to say that Hue Jackson is the worst NFL NC in the modern era. And not only is Jackson a horrible HC, but he’s also a mentally unstable egomaniac – things I saw when he was with the Raiders.

  5. I disagree about the Titans kneeling on the extra point. A block returned for 2 points is very rare. But forcing the Texans to go for 2 to tie if they do rally is a significant additional cushion. 94% chance of getting one point and forcing Houston to convert a 50%-chance attempt.

  6. When I saw Henry break that last TD I was like, dude, just go down and run the clock out. Sure, it was an amazing run and they still won, but that gave the opponent another chance. Running out the clock right there would have left then no chance to come back.

  7. The Cleveland Dog Piles are bad because they have incompetent coaching.

    It is time to end the Baby Huey experiment and to grow up and hire a real man to do the job.

  8. If I were the top QB in college, I’d seriously consider staying in school, or if a senior, pull an Eli Manning on draft day. You might be rich, but you will be on a horrendous team

  9. If the Browns had … not great …. not good …. just adequate QB play they would have 4 to 6 wins so far this season even without decent receivers ….. They have built a top 10 “D” and now with 5 picks in the 1st 2 rounds the can focus on the offense ….

  10. Heard the Browns want to bring Billy Beane in as a consultant –

    Billy: “He gets on base”

    Haslam: “Wrong sport, Bill”

    Billy: *Spits in Dixie cup* “He. gets. on. base.”

    Haslam: “You’re hired!”

    Jonah Hill goes on to be nominated for another best supporting actor. Oh…and the Browns continue to win 1 game every other year because they treat Football like Baseball.

  11. If the NFL had any integrity, they would force the scam artist Haslam to sell the team to someone that actually wanted to field a competitive team.

  12. If you’re talking bad as it gets, got to include the Bears. Pains me to say so but what are they going to do in Chicago!?

    😦
    :’-(

  13. As a LIFELONG Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan since 1976…I am thrilled the football historians will NOW refer to the 2016-2017 Cleveland Browns as the WORST NFL team in modern history. The Bucs will still retain the longest consecutive losing streak BUT at least they got better towards the end of the 1977 and won their last two games. (Saints and Cardinals) Interesting fact, both the Saints and Cardinal FIRED their HC’s the next day after the Bucs beat them both at the end of the 1977 season.

  14. The Browns problems start with an incompetent owner in James Haslam. He has consistently hired “trainees” in all facets of the organization including Mike Farmer, Sashi Brown, Hue Jackson etc etc. Haslam needs to clean house, step away, and hire an NFL experienced GM who hires an experienced HC and the Browns could be in the playoffs next season.

  15. Combining two of these comments – the Lions and our delightful Coach Caldwell nearly lost to the Browns. If Kizer doesn’t miss 1/2 a quarter to injury, I am not sure we win. The owner here in Detroit has said, literally “I love Jim Caldwell.” It’s on tape. He has, by the numbers, been more successful than almost any other Head Coach in our history (sad…) but the on-field product has never risen to the level of playoff threat.

    If you ever want to appreciate what your coach does, listen to Caldwell’s “press conferences.” Last week he said (nearly verbatim) “I don’t like your question, so I am going to answer a different one.” Look, treating the media poorly is sometimes well deserved. However, this question was from an excellent beat writer (Dave Birkett). He has this wanna-be Belicheck attitude (see Jim Schwartz) without the rings. He looks clueless on the sidelines, cannot beat teams with .500 or better records, and cannot fix the same problems we’ve had for several seasons (o-line, running game, slow starts).

    Ever want an experience, get to a Lions game (early in the season before we quit as a fan base) on a Monday/Sunday night. You cannot hear in the stadium. This city deserves better.

    I defended Caldwell last year because there didn’t appear to be better options available. Yes, we can all cry McVeigh! But he’s rare. Now, I’d fire him simply for the opportunity for change. Anything has to be better than the current product.

  16. PFT needs a quote button… seriously! says:
    December 4, 2017 at 6:45 am
    Browns are not as bad as their record. they put a decent game together yesterday and although it was a trap game for the bolts, they still looked ok. they need a few pieces but I think they will bounce back these next few years.

    I do too, but everyone feels smarter by recycling worn out comments about how bad this team is. They never said they would be good in year 1 or year 2. That said, unlike the commenters I think the author raises some salient points. Some bad ones too but here’s what I see:

    1) Jackson should either be fired or given more say in the personnel that he is coaching. My preference, in Y3, would be the latter
    2) DiPodesta should just go. While I do like the analytics approach, and what it has netted in this young roster, he doesn’t understand football. He isn’t even in the building.
    3) Brown should have to report to someone who knows football, and shouldn’t be over the coach. Run analytics, keep getting picks, but as far as the roster is concerned it should be advisory, not a concrete decision. He doesn’t know players. This team has some good raw talent but is completely devoid of veteran talent that can help people understand what it means to win.
    4) Hire that football person, and a good one. Not a retread, not someone from the “Belichick Coaching Tree” (which has failed everywhere except in NE, under him. A true football mind that knows how teams work. I prefer an ex-player, and I would like Peyton Manning.

    This team is historically bad, no question. But it isn’t the unsalvageable mess that the brain trust here likes to pick on with the oh-so-original and smart troll comments, no I don’t think so. I’m tired of watching them lose week after week, but then I am tired of how this league is structured so that it is 1/3 Haves and 2/3 Have Nots. Then there’s the Browns. The good teams aren’t that good because they aren’t playing anyone. The mediocre to bad teams can’t put up good football even when they get to play their peers. The Browns will get it together in 18, starting with the draft, but I think we need to be more concerned with the overall product on the field rather than one team and its misfortunes.

  17. araidersfan says:
    December 4, 2017 at 7:35 am
    Rich Kotite can move over because I think it’s safe to say that Hue Jackson is the worst NFL NC in the modern era. And not only is Jackson a horrible HC, but he’s also a mentally unstable egomaniac – things I saw when he was with the Raiders.
    ———————————–
    Ben McAdoo says “Yo…somebody hold my beer.”

  18. Pats Nation will disagree but the Patriots embarrassed themselves yesterday. Gronk’s hit was completely unacceptable, and there needs to be a suspension. The Danny Trevathian hit has already set that precedent so no whining about how someone has it out for the Patriots. On the street that hit would get you arrested or killed, and it was worse than amateur hour.

    But I am also sick of Brady’s whining about everything. The Bills, who are not a very good football team (surprise, the Pats beat a not very good football team, again) frustrated him towards 9 points in the first half and he went off like a baby. This team is arrogant, entitled, and thinks the world should just bend to them. They aren’t competitors, they are whiners who are great when they’re beating the pants off of some weak team, but incorrigible children when they aren’t. They played a weak game against a very weak team yesterday. Get over yourselves.

  19. If Henry had gone to the ground and there was a fumbled snap on the kneel down and the Texans went on to win McCarthy would have been fired today.

    Breaking a run like that to ice the game hopefully ignites the fan base (there were a lot of empty seats in that stadium yesterday). And hopefully moves Henry closer to the starting tailback role he should be in now.

    I agee there are a lot of real time mistakes made at the end of games by coaches but don’t think the titans yesterday was best example

  20. Nobody likes it, but I completely understand why the NFL and the sports books want to restrict online access to people at the stadiums. Yes, those guys might be the NFL’s best customers, but they’re probably also the biggest gamblers. The sports books don’t want to lose their information advantage. I might be wrong, but that’s my guess.

  21. reddzen says:
    December 4, 2017 at 9:23 am
    They aren’t competitors, they are whiners who are great when they’re beating the pants off of some weak team, but incorrigible children when they aren’t. They played a weak game against a very weak team yesterday. Get over yourselves.

    ——

    Go back and watch last year’s SB….

  22. Look, the Browns are bad, but the criticism levied here couldn’t be more off base. Yes, the Browns were going to (and likely have been) go a more cutting-edge route towards roster building, but WHO SAID IT WAS SUPPOSED TO PAY OFF IN YEARS ONE AND TWO??? The front office TORE THE ROSTER APART for last season, so expecting it to do anything but initially step back would have been foolish. The team has also shown a penchant for acquiring draft picks…something that, news flash, tends to cost you something in the short term. If you’re FAIR about it, you’d realize that the process for rebuilding the Browns shouldn’t be judged until TO START year 3, though really it’s the window from years 3 to 5. If the ownership is wise, it’ll ignore silly viewpoints like the one in this article and stay the course; I can’t say that it is going to work, but there is almost nothing to judge at this point.

  23. redsoxu571 says:
    December 4, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Look, the Browns are bad, but the criticism levied here couldn’t be more off base. Yes, the Browns were going to (and likely have been) go a more cutting-edge route towards roster building, but WHO SAID IT WAS SUPPOSED TO PAY OFF IN YEARS ONE AND TWO??? The front office TORE THE ROSTER APART for last season, so expecting it to do anything but initially step back would have been foolish. The team has also shown a penchant for acquiring draft picks…something that, news flash, tends to cost you something in the short term. If you’re FAIR about it, you’d realize that the process for rebuilding the Browns shouldn’t be judged until TO START year 3, though really it’s the window from years 3 to 5. If the ownership is wise, it’ll ignore silly viewpoints like the one in this article and stay the course; I can’t say that it is going to work, but there is almost nothing to judge at this point.
    —————————

    It’s not going to pay off in years 3-5 either.

    The ownership isn’t wise. He’s just trying to milk the team for all he can get out of it.

  24. The Harvard Boys have made themselves quite a record to stand on when it comes to promoting Moneyball and “non-traditional” front offices.

    Some may not realize just how HISTORIC the record of Depodesta, Sashi Brown and Andrew Berry is.
    …hands down, ‘THE HARVARD BOYS’ OWN THE WORST RECORD IN BROWNS ’69yr’ HISTORY.

    As a Browns fan for over 50 yrs, I’m embarrassed but I refuse to give up. When the Browns returned in 99, as a fan I had one goal…that the Browns win a Super Bowl before I die.

    Today, 19yrs after the Browns returned to Cleveland, the fans are hoping the team can win just 1 game, to avoid a season worse than 2016.

    As for my goal, seeing my Browns win a Super Bowl before I die…I may have to live until I’m 100 yrs old, but I refuse to give up on my team, the Browns… “we don’t quit!”…go Browns, mac

  25. Take it from a Jags fan..just because you have alot of high draft picks does not mean that you will become “good” all of a sudden.

    The picks have to actually pan out picking at 1,2 or 3 does not guarantee that the player you pick actually turns out to be a superstar- most times they dont…the O and D schemes must play to the players strengths…Gameday Coaching is huge…and oh yeah…there is that QB thing….

    My point is that even with all the draft picks..it is still very difficult to turn a team around. You can hit on some of everything and STILL be 5-11 or 6-10…going from BAD to legit playoff contender is VERY difficult.

  26. scutz1972 says:

    December 4, 2017 at 10:27 am

    I wish the NFL could step in and remove ownership from the Browns. Haslams have made this team a laughing stock.
    ******************************************
    The Browns were a laughing stock long before the Haslam’s bought the team.

  27. I’m calling it…..Browns beat GB to get win #1, 23-17. Gordon has huge game, Hundley throws 2 picks. This game is very winnable for Cleve as well as the Bears game later this year.

  28. The reason the Moneyball guys were brought in were to how little Haslam could spend on a team and still take in his cut of the NFL revenue pie. CONGRATS,we now know that 60 million under the cap will get you just enough talent to win 1 game. Yes, I still think they will one game as the season comes to a close.

  29. It isn’t Jim Caldwell’s fault that the Vikings built a good enough team that they were able to overcome the loss of their quarterback. You can say that the Lions “should be able to win the NFC North” because the other teams changed quarterbacks, but that presumes that the other teams in the division are going to roll over and die, like the Packers did. You’re saying that Caldwell should be fired because he isn’t 10-2 this year.

  30. Suggesting that a player running 75 yards for a touchdown should have the wherewithal to know that he should take a knee before getting to the end zone is ridiculous. Whether he scores or not, there’s no way the Titans lose that game. Players get paid for yards and touchdowns.

  31. Lions should have made the playoffs this year. With Aaron Rodgers out, the NFC Norris division was theirs for the taking. They didn’t take it. That’s on Caldwell. Like the Silverdome, the Lions aren’t imploding but that doesn’t mean they have value.

  32. Use Cam-rolina’s method for success: (i) Get your Rivera (HC); Get your Newton (QB);
    (ii) get your Olsen (TE); (iii) get your Kuechly (LB); and finally, get a stable of “decent” RBs like J-Stew and “The New Guy” McCaffrey… then, you good to go!

  33. Ivan Pavlov says:
    December 4, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Lions should have made the playoffs this year.
    ))))))))))))
    Not really they should not have made the playoffs last year. If Blair Walsh makes an extra point the Lions don’t make the playoffs last year. Yeah I am with you on Caldwell cuz he is like the Lions team just not that good.

  34. Art Modell screwed over the Browns and Cleveland. First he fires Paul Brown, then he hijacked the team.The Browns would have a couple of super bowls without Modell.

  35. Re. Titans-Texans, Derrick Henry’s decision to score was appropriate. Now a 10 point lead. Probability of making the PAT is >99%. So an 11 point lead highly likely. Probability of Houston scoring 11 points with under a minute to play is minuscule. From a statistical point of view, the Titans did the right thing.

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