In the grand scheme of things, this meaningless game means nothing to the Cleveland Browns. It is simply another forgettable loss in another hopeless season.
Yet something bigger is at play. With each new regime, the talk of “changing the culture” is along side the talk of “who is this team’s franchise quarterback?”
There is no doubt this team doesn’t have its franchise quarterback, but why has the losing culture remained?
It appeared dead with the victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 3. The Browns got a big monkey off its back by snapping an 11-game losing streak to the Ravens. Moreover, the Browns’ brass unveiled a plan to upgrade the stadium and talking about changing uniforms. They want to turn the page to a era that features more wins than losses.
Then came the second quarter in Cincinnati on Nov. 17 followed by another lopsided loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers a week later.
Two weeks ago, the Browns blew a 12-point lead to New England helped, in a big way, by a pass interference call that simply wasn’t pass interference.
That game was sandwiched between losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears, in games that the Browns held leads.
A franchise quarterback ain’t gonna save the Browns from losing games like those.
The Browns have returned to their now traditional losing ways and Sunday’s game against the New York Jets was the team’s crowing achievement of 2013. The game had the feel of a team that knew it was going to lose, a team that knew they are almost always going to lose and a team that had simply given up.
The culture has remained the same.
The Browns led the Jets 10-0 with 6:48 to play in the first half. New York was doing nothing on offense. The Browns were moving down the field with ease. How did the Browns defense respond after getting the 10-point lead? The Jets went on a 13-play, 80-yard drive in 5:19 culminating in a 6-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson. The Jets were back in the game and the Browns were crumbling right before our eyes. As the final two seconds ticked off the clock to end the half, Nick Folk’s field goal sailed through the uprights and the score was tied at 10. But we all knew: The Browns lost this game.
To his credit, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has tried to change the losing culture in Cleveland, but that culture just seems too powerful right now. Consider these personnel decisions that have backfired on the Browns. Regarding the aforementioned David Nelson. He was cut by the Browns after the fourth preseason game. On Sunday, he caught four balls for 33 yards and two touchdowns. Davone Bess cost the Browns a potential win at Kansas City and has since been excused from the team the final two weeks because of personal reasons. He was also seen on Instagram last week rolling what many thought was a joint.
How about running back Bobby Rainey? He’s not playing for the Jets, but he is tearing it up in Tampa Bay after being cut by the Browns on Oct. 18. Rainey has 119 carries for 494 yards and four touchdowns in seven games with the Buccaneers. The Browns signed Edwin Baker off the Houston Texans practice squad three weeks ago. He has two of the team’s four rushing touchdowns this season.
And let’s not forget the choice to go with Brandon Weeden as a starting quarterback to begin the season over Brian Hoyer or Jason Campbell. The latter two are at least competent while Weeden is a disaster under center.
If this regime wants to change the culture, they better make better decisions at acquiring and retaining talent. Otherwise more late-December meaningless games will be taking place for a seventh consecutive year.
That’s one holiday tradition Browns fans would be happy to quit.