The Cleveland Browns, a team perpetually stifled and thoroughly bathed in failure, currently own a record of 0-12 ahead of Sunday’s matchup with division and in-state rival Cincinnati, which has also endured a disappointing season.
If the Browns lose their final four games of the season, which feature road trips to Buffalo and Pittsburgh and home tilts against the Bengals and Chargers, they will join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only two teams to go 0-16 in NFL history.
After a Nov. 27 loss to the New York Giants, Hue Jackson, the team’s head coach, said, “Being 0-12 is probably … the hardest thing ever.”
The group has been competitive in a handful of matchups this year, but more often than not, they get beaten and whipped around. A 27-13 loss to the Giants, the last game the team played, was preceded by a 24-9 handling by Pittsburgh. Baltimore and Dallas combined to outscore Cleveland 63-17 in back-to-back weeks leading up to those games.
The repetitiveness and severity of the defeats have to be taking a toll on a team that is projected to have the first selection in the upcoming draft, and evidence for this has typically oozed from every part of the franchise. After all, losing has become a tradition for the basement-dwellers of the league. But with Jackson at the helm, one intangible is taking a turn for the better: the collective attitude of the team.
Offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who has spent his entire 10-year career with Cleveland, made this evident in statements produced in an interview earlier this season. “From the moment that Hue (Jackson) got here, him and I have had a close relationship and it’s built on trust and honesty and we both like how the other person operates and how they do their business. I’ve been an admirer of Hue (Jackson) since his days in Oakland even and then when we’d play them twice a year with Cincinnati, I always really respected him as a coach and I enjoyed talking with him after games.”
Rumors surrounding Thomas’ availability on the trade market have been swirling for years, but nothing has ever materialized.
For now, the nine-time Pro-Bowler is just another Brown-in-waiting.
The turnstile of personnel is always inevitable in Cleveland. The only time it ever takes a hiatus is during the regular season, and even that pattern tends to break routine every now and then.
But the constants of losing and misery blanket the team without fail. Can Hue Jackson, with his impassioned and fiery persona leading the charge, fix the culture? And what would an 0-16 campaign do to that effort?
First off, Jackson can’t right every wrong. He needs a considerable amount of assistance and support from Jimmy Haslam, the team’s owner, and Sashi Brown, the general manager. They need to breed consistency in an organization that is only familiar with deviation and the unknown. This process, which will be heavily expedited with Cleveland’s imminent high draft slot, will allow them an opportunity to develop a core of young talent that can be advanced by Jackson and his coaching staff.
And secondly, an 0-16 performance may spur the necessary realization by executives within the franchise that uniformity, not mass change, is the answer.
Can Cleveland figure it out? Will they ever?
The Lions have appeared to. It’s taken a few years, but Detroit has turned in a couple of playoff appearances and looks to be headed back again this season.
We’ll see if the Browns can do the same. It’s about time that quality, competitive football made its return to the shores of Lake Erie. Their fans deserve it.