Season Preview: 2012 Cleveland Browns

Browns fans are due for a letdown if they expect any of the following things this season: cohesion, competence, teamwork, athleticism, tackling, etc. If, however, they recognize the potential for and form of it, they will come to appreciate one thing in spades: hilarity.

You see, last season the team at one point (call it Week 12) could be seen to have a logical path forward. It was sludging through loss after painful loss, but there was potential. Yes, the offensive line was a sieve, but it featured two Pro Bowlers under the age of 27. The receiving corps was laughably bad but raw, and had some intriguing options at tight end. World beater Colt McCoy was not, but he was handling adversity (more dropped passes than any other team in the league, fourth and fifth string running backs as starters, generally getting the living crap kicked out of himself, etc.) quite well. Given how hot his wife is, the comparisons to Jeff Garcia were fair. Finally, the Holmgren/Heckert regime had consistently drafted well, something that a fan base accustomed to picks like Tim Couch and Gerard Warren found soothing.

But then Steelers linebacker cum Second Amendment defender James Harrison nearly took McCoy’s head off in a Week 14 game. Browns coaches were apparently too busy checking on Phil Dawson’s hangnail to notice the crushing hit, so they put the QB right back into the game. This of course peeved Colt’s father, who understandably didn’t like watching his son nearly die. And this, in turn, peeved the Browns, who didn’t like their player’s father complaining about the team’s borderline criminal neglect.

McCoy, thus, was deemed expendable, and a front office renowned for its prudent drafts and stockpiling of picks went bonkers to replace him. The team’s bevy of additional picks were used to draft a 28 year old quarterback who was given Colt’s job without competition, as well as a physical, high mileage running back with an injury history. Gaping holes at both guard spots, outside linebacker, wide receiver, corner, and safety were not addressed. Richardson needed knee surgery shortly after the draft (surprise!). Things were looking bad.

And then they got worse. Jimmy Haslam III, minority owner of the despised Pittsburgh Steelers, began his purchase of the team. I actually thought this was an elaborate spoof conducted by The Onion when I first heard it. If only.

So what does it all mean for this season? Unless new offensive coordinator Brad Childress (the man who couldn’t parlay Adrian Peterson into an effective offense), new defensive coordinator/walking corpse Dick Jauron and head coach Pat Shurmur can eek ten wins out of this atrocious roster, they’re toast.

Standing in their way will be logic, reason, the laws of physics, and the league’s third hardest schedule. As if those weren’t enough (they are), Cleveland will be without its two best defensive players (CB Joe Haden and DT Phil Taylor) for at least a month.

But again, humor. This team will not just be run of the mill bad, like I expect the Cowboys to be. They’ll be out of games before the close of the first quarter. Brandon Weeden will cement his name next to Chris Weinke and cause the league to institute an age limit for first round picks. Receivers will be generally lost, and Mohammed Massaquoi will sustain at least four concussions. Trent Richardson will carry the ball a total of ten times, and erstwhile feature back Montario Hardesty will average three yards per carry. I don’t mention a defense because the team will not have one.

What we have the privilege of watching is a lame duck season. This team will fight and claw its way to four improbable wins and then be summarily dismantled. Haslam has already been connected to Eagles president Joe Banner, meaning Holmgren and Heckert are goners. (Also meaning that, under a regime of former Eagles and Steelers executives, I will clamor for employees from a friendlier organization…say, Hamas.)

By 2013, the Browns will be under their fifth personnel decision making team since their 1999 return to the league. A city ravaged by the recession will continue to pour millions of dollars into the factory of sadness; I’ll continue to pay $400 for NFL Sunday Ticket. And for all the whining and moaning from Clevelanders, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

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