Well, we got through another Sunday without NFL football. The next time we will have to endure such hardships is Feb. 10. In other words, Cleveland Browns football is back for better or worse.
According to national media types and prognosticators, it’s going to be worse than 2011. And that was pretty crappy.
A quick search reveals the Browns’ prognosticated records:
Don Banks, SI.com: 5-11
Steve Wyche, NFL.com: 5-11
Pat Kirwan, CBSSports.com: 4-12
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com 1-15
Adam Schein, NFL.com: 1-15
Whether or not they are right is an endless debate. Remember, these are empty assertions. They know nothing of the future. They mean nothing. That’s a certainty.
Let me take you back to last year’s opener. The Browns played host to the Cincinnati Bengals.
As I was making my way to the game that day, a local radio pregame show was discussing how that game was a must-win for the Browns. The two personalities were certain the Bengals possessed the worst roster and they were the worst team in the NFL. SportsIllustrated.com predicted the Bengals to finish 3-13 and the same CBSSports.com that has the Browns at 1-15 this year said the Bengals would have that same record last season.
The Bengals — with an unproven rookie quarterback — beat the Browns 19-14 that day and would eventually finish 9-7 and qualify for the AFC playoffs.
A year later, the Browns are considered one of those NFL teams lacking in talent and one of the worst teams. Now this does not correlate to a playoff berth for the Browns in 2012. What we do know is this Browns team is young. Really young. There are 15 rookies and 11 second-year players on the team’s 53-man roster.
“It’s obviously not something that we planned,” Browns general manager Tom Heckert said last Saturday. “We wanted to keep the best 53 or what we consider the best 53 no matter what position, if we have to go light at one position or heavy at another one, we were willing to do it so I think it worked out that way at least right now and we’ll see how it goes.”
The Browns’ roster is considerably younger than when Heckert assumed general manager duties two years ago. During the Eric Mangini era, he favored older, more experienced players.
The win total wasn’t any different.
Football is a young man’s game with a delicate balance between being young and being comfortable with this high level of play.
There is talent on this team year’s team, but it’s young talent. Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Josh Gordon, Mitchell Schwartz and, heck, even second-year guys like Greg Little, Jabaal Sheard, Eric Haag, Jordan Cameron and Jason Pinkson need to prove they can play — and play effectively — in the NFL.
Until that is answered, no one can honestly predict what this Browns team will do in 2012. It could be ugly. It could be the start of something big. It’s the latter that makes facing another litany of 16 Browns Sundays so exciting.
Welcome back, football.