The Browns may not be focused on wins and losses, but they’re currently focused on talking about whether they’re focused on wins and losses.
In the aftermath of comments from Browns executive V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown that created a stir given the implication that the Browns aren’t actually trying to win as many games as they can this year, Browns coach Hue Jackson offered a defense of his colleague and/or supervisor.
“I wouldn’t think that Sashi meant it that way, just me knowing him,” Jackson said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Sashi is as competitive as anybody I know, and we are all trying to win. I don’t know any other way to do this, me personally. That’s all we ever talk about. I’m always trying to win. I just don’t know any other way to do it. I don’t want our players to know any other way to do it. . . .
“I know him very well and he’s as competitive as anybody. I know this is honestly killing him and all of us, but at the same time, we understand what we’re trying to do, where we’re trying to go, but I don’t want anyone to have the message that we don’t want to win or that we’re not working to win or that we’re not trying to win because that’s not the case at all.”
Jackson, responding to a report of tension in the organization, added that he’s joined at the hip with Brown. The coach may want to reconsider that one, given the reaction in some circles to Sashi Brown’s remarks.
Said an unnamed high-level NFL executive to Cabot, “I’ve never heard any competitive leader in any sport say that in my entire life.”
Another source told PFT, “How do you think the league office is reacting to that? And we are trying to figure out why fans are running away from the game.”
While Brown’s comments may be troubling to some, they’re practical and understandable. No one expected the Browns to make the playoffs this year. So why not treat all of 2016 as a pre-preseason to 2017? With a never-ending quest to find a franchise quarterback, drafting as high as possible will enhance the likelihood that they finally obtain someone who will spend more than a year or two (or, as the case may be, a game or two) at the position.
There’s a fine line between not focusing on wins and losses and tanking, and it would be foolish to assume NFL teams don’t tank. The 2014 Buccaneers apparently did in Week 17 against the Saints, which secured for Tampa Bay the first overall pick in the 2015 draft and, in turn, the rights to quarterback Jameis Winston.
If a team isn’t going to qualify for the postseason, why not finish as high as possible in the draft order? It’s a temptation that has been hiding in plain sight for years, and it should eventually prompt the NFL to implement a draft lottery.
For now, the better approach would be discretion. Regardless of whether the Browns are 10/16th of the way through a full-season tank, certain things shouldn’t be articulated.