Blog Entry

The Audacity of Hope

Posted on: June 3, 2009 5:20 pm

It’s the one thing we as football fans can always depend on. As sure as the sun sets over Lake Erie each night, we can depend on a new season bringing hope for the city’s beloved football team.

Unfortunately, this hope creates anxiety in Browns fans, which leads to optimism and ultimately frustration. That frustration mounts over the years, creating a black hole of disappointment and later, hatred. Eventually that hatred brews and festers until it manifests itself and eventually the unthinkable happens:

They convert into Steelers fans.

Browns fans, I bring you good news today – this year will be different. Expectations will be met, and you will see a Browns team worthy of your praise and adoration. Head coach Eric Mangini will deliver on the promise of a better tomorrow, and the Cleveland Browns will field a competitive football team.

…Or at least I hope so.

While the NFL remains as unpredictable as ever, there are several measurable goals we as Browns fans can expect from this year’s incarnation of the football team.

The Browns will NOT make the playoffs in 2009.

Let’s not kid ourselves, this team is still a year away from playoff contention. Despite his work ethic and his passion for football, Eric Mangini cannot perform miracles. Until I see Eric Mangini turning water into Gatorade on the sidelines, my playoff expectations shall remain dormant.

The reason?

For one, the AFC North is one of the toughest divisions in football. Defensive juggernauts in Baltimore and Pittsburgh will undoubtedly impede any 2008 Dolphin-like progress the team may see. Anything can happen in the NFL, but some things are more realistic than others. While the Browns should be much improved from the team we saw in 2008, it is unlikely that improvement will land them a playoff birth.

Cleveland will rank in the top 10 in terms of fewest penalties committed.

Regardless of how the Browns fare on either side of the ball, Cleveland will field one of the most disciplined teams in professional football. One of the hallmarks of an Eric Mangini coached football team is an emphasis on execution and a minimization of self-inflicted wounds.

From 2006 to 2008, Eric Mangini’s Jets ranked third, second, and sixth overall terms of fewest penalties committed in a season.

Eric Mangini has already put measures in place to ensure the Browns continue the positive trends he started in New York. Players routinely learn and practice through noise in OTAs. Those who commit “mental errors” such as false starts and turnovers are forced to run laps as atonement for their mistakes. Such practices will undoubtedly allow the Browns to function and remain competitive against the toughest of competition.

The Browns will win at least 7 games this season.

It’s hard to predict wins and losses, and it’s even harder to do so accurately, but the Cleveland Browns should find a way to win at least 7 games this season. Contrary to popular belief, this team is not the rebuilding project their 2008 record seems to suggest. Many players from the 2007 season (in which the Browns finished 10-6) are still with the team.

Defensively speaking, the Cleveland should be much improved from the team that finished 28th overall in total defense. Another year in the books means more experience for the promising D’Qwell Jackson along with cornerbacks Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright. Defensive lineman Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams have played their first full year in the 3-4 defense, and that experience may prove invaluable heading into the 2009 season. All of these factors will enable the Browns to field a competitive football team that finishes right around the .500 mark.

Jerome Harrison will have an expanded role on offense.

There will be more #35 in 2009.

Since he was hired as head coach, Eric Mangini has taken the players and systems he developed in New York and transitioned them directly into Cleveland. So far, the Browns have used similar draft philosophies, players, and personnel from Eric Mangini’s past.

Assuming these trend continues, the Cleveland Browns’ offense should look very similar to that of the 2008 New York Jets.

Last year with the Jets, Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was part of an offensive system which featured the thunder and lightning combo of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. In this system, the speedy Washington received 123 touches (76 attempts plus 47 receptions) while accounting for 18% of the Jets' carries.

Under former Browns coordinator Rob Chudzinski, Jerome Harrison received 46 touches (34 attempts plus 12 receptions) while accounting for a mere 8% of Browns carries.

Daboll and Mangini have placed an emphasis on the change of pace running back, and that should benefit not only Harrison, but the Browns’ running game as a whole.


Since: Dec 31, 2008
Posted on: June 5, 2009 7:32 pm

The Audacity of Hope

Excellent article, though I think there might actually be a shot for Cleveland to make it to the playoff's this year, and for a few good reasons.
1) I think the offensive line should benefit from the addition of Alex Mack.  I watched him play at Cal, and the dude is a beast.  While it's possible he won't live up to his hype, I don't really see that happening.  I predict he will help keep the QB up and assist in the running game.
2) Devoting more energy to a "Change-of-Pace" back will only benefit the Browns offense. 
3) The remainder of the draft was pretty good; I'm particularly happy about Robiskie, though Massaquoi should also make immediate impact.  I think the biggest reason behind the disappointing season last year was the complete and total relapse of Braylon Edwards in particular and the receiving corps in general. 
4) Most of the stuff that I've read indicates they are going to stick with DA as starter.  I couldn't be happier.  Granted, I'm not a fan of Brady Quinn's; dude's a pretty boy, and I don't care what people say, I don't think he is going to be the answer. 

Those reasons are why the win total this season will outpace next year, but to get into the playoffs, they need divisional help, and I think they will get it in two forms:
1) the Bengals are not going to be a contender this year.  I think they have so many issues that they remain the "Bungles" we've come to know and love.
2) I don't think that the Raven's are going to be as dominant this year.  They lost Suggs and DC Ryan, which is only going to hurt them.  In addition, their receiving corps is getting older and won't be getting any better anytime soon. 

Combining all of these factors, I think it's likely that the Brown's will see the playoffs as a wild card.

Since: Jun 30, 2008
Posted on: June 5, 2009 4:59 pm

The Audacity of Hope

Thank you to everyone (especially BBM) for reading!

On the money Cheeks, I'd say 6 or 7 wins. Easier sequel helps but until the Browns can compete in their division count on 5 losses a year. I like Mangini's moves I've seen so far. Nothing fancy just sound football moves. Draft Quality Personalities, Add Veteran depth, Teach Discipline, and Add Size on O-line.Not big changes but necessary ones to build a solid team foundation.
I love what Mangini has done so far. Never before have we seen such an influx of pure football players. These are high character guys (as opposed to Savage's talented "character" guys) who play football and give it all they have.

Many people look at this team and see absolutely nothing. As one fan told me, "I can't name more than 3 players on the Browns' defense."

I love it.

Put your head down and play football. The Belichickian way. The Browns will surprise people with their team defense, and I'm getting excited just thinking about it.

Since: Jun 30, 2008
Posted on: June 5, 2009 4:54 pm

The Audacity of Hope

Hey Papa,

That is not a fair statement to make, and here's why:

The 2009 Browns are NOT the 1990 Browns, which are not the 1980 Browns and are completely different from the 1970 Browns. It's OK to be optimistic because we as fans have reason to be.

Old coaches and old players couldn't get the job done in Cleveland. Those men have nothing to do with this year's team, and therefore should NOT be taken into account when looking at this year's season.

Since: Mar 23, 2007
Posted on: June 5, 2009 12:24 pm

The Audacity of Hope

On the money Cheeks, I'd say 6 or 7 wins. Easier sequel helps but until the Browns can compete in their division count on 5 losses a year. I like Mangini's moves I've seen so far. Nothing fancy just sound football moves. Draft Quality Personalities, Add Veteran depth, Teach Discipline, and Add Size on O-line.Not big changes but necessary ones to build a solid team foundation.  

Since: Jun 28, 2007
Posted on: June 5, 2009 9:04 am

The Audacity of Hope

The Browns will be a terrible team this year. If the coach is willing to trade his best 2 young skilled position players then you must assume he knows what lay aheadI'm not saying that Quinn is the "Answer" or Braylon is untradeable but they are both young and have psoitive upside. Looking to trade that is a strong indicator of how he thinks the next 2-3 seasons are going to be.

On the positive side Mangini has made good personal decisions in the draft while he was with the Jets and that should carry over to the Browns. And he should have top 10 picks this year and next year to put together and O-line and D-line.

Browns win 6 games this year and next tops, and only in their third year under Mangini do they have a chance to make the playoffs.

Since: Jun 4, 2009
Posted on: June 4, 2009 10:42 pm

The Audacity of Hope

Team Blogger Sircheeks

Yes, oh lord yes. Lets listen to the "wet behind the ears" fans speak of hope! $20 says Sircheeks is barely old enough to purchase an alcohol laden drink. Why? because 30,40, 50-something Browns fans already know what lay ahead.

Since: Jan 18, 2008
Posted on: June 4, 2009 9:58 am

The Audacity of Hope

An enjoyable read as always, cheeks!

I admire you're optimism and outlook on what Mangini will bring to this organization. All I can say after watching him in NY for the past few years is this: I hope for his sake and yours that it all works out as planned.

I couldn't agree more with your take on Harrison - Since the Browns were the national game every other week last year, we all had the opportunity to watch that guy run circles around Jamal Lewis. Romeo should have handed the ball to him full-time halfway though the season to take the pressure off the QB's - I understand it's difficult to demote a veteran and proven professional such as Lewis without giving him the chance to work through things on his terms, but Harrison was the clear cut horse of your team last year.

Keep the faith Brother!

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