If you’re from Cleveland, you are all too familiar with the old saying “same old Browns”. Why? Because for the past 14 seasons this team has been one of the worst franchises to be called an NFL team. With only one playoff season to show for itself since coming back to the majestic shores of Lake Erie the Browns have been unwatchable. The level of play has been less than acceptable, and the fan base has been through a turnstile of players, coaches, management and even ownership. The other teams of the AFC north during the same time period have all experienced a great deal of success with two of the three having won multiple Super Bowls and the third having multiple playoff appearances. So, for a fan base of very loyal, devoted and sarcastic fans, the Clowns…I mean Browns 2014 season seemed to be destined towards development and ultimately failure.
However, through the first 6 weeks of the season and now sitting with a record of 3-2, the Browns are in the mix for the division and also have a signature win against a Pittsburgh rival that has dominated the series. In addition to this the Browns next three opponents have a combined 1 win between the three of them. So, if the Browns can keep up their level of play and beat Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay it is very possible that Cleveland may hit the mid point of the season at 6-2, which is a far cry from any level of success this team has seen since 1999. The best part is that I think they will actually succeed in getting these three wins. A belief that I would not have readily offered up in other years, mainly because of the following:
- Mike Pettine as head coach: The way this season has set up just reeks of a Hollywood script even more laughable than Draft Day. Mike Pettine the under dog coach who worked his way up from the high school ranks comes in as what seemed to be the last choice of management, but also the only guy dumb enough to say yes to the job. However, now he is the toast of the town because his attitude is infectious and he embodies the hard working attitude of the city. Sure, his defense hasn’t performed to the level we want it to, but the guy has a no BS attitude and a black and white outlook on wins and losses. He clearly states his expectations of his players and when they deliver or don’t deliver he lets you know. This is the type of guy the teams and fan base has wanted and needed. A guy you can respect and follow.
- Mr. Hero Brian Hoyer: Well if we are sticking with the Hollywood script, why not throw in the home town hero who loves a good local sandwich and can tell you about some great windows too! The reality is Hoyer has been a God send to this team and we can thank ex GM Michael Lombardi for picking him up in 2013. Had Pettine’s Buffalo Bills defense not folded Hoyer like a pretzel last year on Thursday night football a lot of things could have gone differently for this franchise. In a weird way maybe we should be thankful it happened because here we are today. After all the changes the offseason provided and the eventual releases of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, Hoyer knew an opportunity to be the starter in the NFL would never again present itself like this again. He had to make the most of it and has he ever. Hoyer is in clear command of this team offensively and seems to be getting better and more comfortable every game. At the beginning of the season my hope was that Hoyer would win the job and be the competent quarterback the Browns would need. That way our highly touted defense would keep us in the game The thing is, he has been much more than that with game winning drives in 2 of 3 wins and a touchdown to interception rate of 7 to 1. His decision making and command in the huddle has been remarkable. Barring an injury to him, this team really could make a run at the playoffs.
- Offensive line and running backs: Kyle Shanahan is known for a strong rushing attack behind a zone blocking scheme. The offensive line and running back troupe of Tate, Crowell and West have made it look as advertised. After such a stagnant running game last year and a pass happy offense with Norv Turner, the rushing attack is what makes this whole thing believable. By having to keep all opposing defenses honest in the run game the play action attack has been extremely exciting and successful. The turnaround from 2013 to 2014 has been huge.
With Pettine and Hoyer leading the way, and as long as the Browns rushing attack can keep chewing up defenses, these Cleveland Browns will turn some heads and change some minds. That way the old saying “same old Browns” can become an old forgotten saying.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Berk Gencer