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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice…

The Offseason Camps and Practices – How the Browns Get Better

In Pat Shurmur’s exit press conference concluding the 2011 season, he stated that he will be excited for the offseason this year as there will obviously be no lockout.  He mentioned he had the schedule marked down to the day, leading up to the regular season. This intrigued me, as I wonder what kind of practices and training sessions he will run so everyone will be on the same page and gain a large understanding of his offense and how it should be run.  One question which I keep returning to, is how organized will camps be for the team this offseason?  If 2011 is any indication, there is room for improvement.

The 2011 season featured a few gaffes where someone as detailed as Pat portrays should have likely avoided. Running into a referee (garnering a penalty), not knowing the backup tight end was lined up as a tailback and subsequently fumbling, and time mismanagement at the end of the first half late in the season are a few mistakes the coach made in his rookie season as leader of the Browns.  However, I’m willing to give Pat the benefit of the doubt and I believe he will learn from his mistakes and be a better coach in 2012.

The Cleveland Browns will experience several camps both with and without pads, four preseason games, and likely a family day at the stadium where the team is on display in the upcoming months.  Each of three aspects will feature time where Shurmur will have the opportunity to instill knowledge, training/repetition, motivation, and camaraderie with the coaching staff, players, and management.

Early on in the offseason programs, the Browns personnel will be given playbooks for the West Coast Offense run by the Pat Shurmur (and Brad Childress) and the 4-3 Defense headed by coordinator Dick Jauron.  Having a more time to practice than last season, the team should be able to see the intricacies of the offense and defense as well as the strategy for success both on a play-by-play basis and overall. (I omitted special teams as typically these systems are less complex and rely on more simple aspects like tackling, kicking, and most importantly avoiding mistakes).  2011 was the first season where both systems were installed, but after seeing the product first hand there should be film to study showing players what things worked and what did not; a very important step in the learning process in football.  At any given time, the eleven men units should be able to take the information they learned previously off the field and implement it on the gridiron. 

The team will get to put on the pads and execute what needs to be done to be successful on a weekly basis.  Again, with no lockout, the team should be in a position to better implement both systems (offense and defense). The number of repetitions will be exponentially greater than in 2011, and all players will be able to visually see what they must do on every possible play as well as gaining opportunities to improve their techniques.  What is very important here, is that the players will be able to bounce off questions to their coaches and can actively correct negative actions or tendencies.

Last season, the Browns had a few team sessions during the lockout known as “Camp Colt”.  These trainings were designed to keep the offense on the same page and to build camaraderie.  While these two tasks were accomplished last spring, the team was forced to not have contact with the coaches.  Therefore, McCoy and other players unfamiliar with the West Coast Offense could only go off what they knew and the periods were essentially spent playing catch and hanging out with teammates. 

The bottom line is that although there may have been some improvement from the unit, there will be a larger learning curve this season (no matter which quarterback is the starter).  This will definitely be evident, as there were no group sessions for the defense at all.  The players had less time than the offense to learn the schemes and adapt their abilities to what is expected by the coaches.  Pat Shurmur and his assistants will be able to motivate players (especially when the young members err) and the best way to improve is through experience and learning from mistakes.

2012 is a very important offseason for the Cleveland Browns; I believe this is a period where the team and fans can expect to see a fair amount of improvement.  For all the wrongs that occurred the past season, the young team can right them in the next few months.  The veterans returning from last season should know what to expect from a coaching standpoint, as the entire staff is retained (sans Brad Childress).  They will be able to see a whole offseason with this staff which can only help.  Most importantly, the players will be able to teach incoming rookies (which can be several, depending on what happens in April) what it means to be a member of the Cleveland Browns.

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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Offseason

 

The Fans’ Expectations on Free Agency

This free agent period will definitely be one to watch for, and I believe it will go a little differently than the previous two seasons.  Tom Heckert’s philosophy (which I agree with) has been to typically avoid the big-name free agents and acquire young, cheaper talent with rather meager contracts.  Tom must decide the teams direction through trading personnel, obtaining available players, and re-signing free agents on the 2011 roster.  In order to see why the 2012 offseason may be a little different, we must look at the two earlier periods.

Recently, the Browns have made moves for players with whom personnel had prior knowledge or experience. Two seasons ago, Tom Heckert (formerly with the Philadelphia Eagles) traded for Chris Gocong and Sheldon Brown – from his previous franchise.  They also traded for Seneca Wallace, whom was with Mike Holmgren for several years in Seattle.  In 2011, the Browns traded a late draft pick to Saint Louis, coach Pat Shurmur’s former employer, for John Greco and attempted to nab Broderick Bunkley from the Eagles (which fell though).  I can definitely envision the team doing something similar to this again in 2012, I just hope it is for only a player or two and they are worthy assets.

The teams’ options will be more plentiful in 2012 due to the fact there will be a complete off season to make transactions.  In 2010, the Browns traded Brady Quinn for Peyton Hillis and a few draft selections.  Before injuries and contract disputes, this was one of the better trades the franchise has made in a long time (and even after the negatives, this is a pretty good deal as Quinn has not contributed at all in Denver).  Although Sheldon Brown has been less than stellar, he and Chris Gocong have been viable options the past two seasons, while Alex Hall (whom the Browns traded to get the two former Eagles) has not done much since the trade.  The Kamerion Wimbley trade for a draft pick (which was used to select Colt McCoy) is still up in the air, as Wimbley has had success in Oakland and McCoy is still a question mark.  Overall the 2010 moves made the team better, even if it was not by a large margin.

In 2011, the Browns traded a late round draft pick for John Greco, who played very little during the season. They also tried to get Broderick Bunkley, who failed his physical and the trade was voided.  It was a quiet offseason, partially due to the lockout, and in a short time-frame Tom Heckert was not as successful in the trading period as he was in 2010.  Therefore in 2012, I envision the team going back to making more quality moves that will improve the roster.

I also believe Tom Heckert will try and get a few higher-profile guys that will bolster the current roster immediately.  Two main reasons why the team would sign more expensive free agents in 2012 than in the past are pressure from several outside sources (including the owner – who mentioned that he was sickened by this past season and wants to win now) and available salary cap space.  Fans and local media have been pining for an improved roster through all facets of the offseason – not just in the April draft.  I foresee at least one playmaker being added (I’ll save speculation for future articles) to the offense and possibly the defense as well.  The eye test showed the team’s lack of ability to score an offensive touchdown on a consistent basis for one reason or another.  The only way to compete in the NFL is to score and being in a league loaded with playmakers; you’re not going to consistently win scoring 14 points a game.  Also, by not spending too much in past offseasons and avoiding expensive free agents, the Browns have the flexibility to use the additional money in free agency this year (should they chose to). 

One of the most important aspects in free agency is to decide whether to spend money to keep current players on the roster or not.  In 2010 there was some turnover of the roster from the previous regime, but it came from a different way than expected.  They let Brodney Pool leave in free agency, however the Browns also signed one-year tenders for restricted free agents Jerome Harrison, Matt Roth, and Jason Trusnik.  However, all of these players left after the following season (delaying the turnover by one year).  In  2011, the team had re-signed more free agents than the prior year (like Seneca Wallace and Jayme Mitchell).  In addition, they let Eric Wright, Abe Elam, and Lawrence Vickers leave for other teams.  Based off of this, it will be somewhat difficult to predict the moves of the 2012 offseason.

After this season ended, the three main free agents the team has to think about are Peyton Hillis, D’Qwell Jackson, and Phil Dawson.  As with all free agents go, each situation is different from the next.  Contract negotiations begin with length and amount of the deal; these can fluctuate greatly depending on the player’s position and recent ability on the field. 

With that, I believe in a slightly more active free agency period for the Cleveland Browns in 2012.  I will give my opinion down the road as to what I feel the team should do, but fans should expect the front office garnering some attention (from the news).  The type and quantity of players picked up and traded for will be a result of front office demands, additional money to spend, and (once again) a complete period to make the correct decisions.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Free Agency

 

The QB Situation – What to do?

Random Offseason Thoughts and Topics:

The Quarterback Position and What Will Happen?

It’s only January but talked are in full force regarding the signal caller.  Everyone from local radio to Pat Shurmur and even Randy Lerner have weighed in about finding the right quarterback to lead the Browns.  It appears as if the team is not 100% behind Colt McCoy, as the biggest endorsement came from Tom Heckert (in his exit press conference) who stated McCoy will have an opportunity to compete for the 2012 starting job.

This amount of talk is still somewhat interesting, but it will likely get stale by April and the NFL draft.  Clearly the team has to have a face of the franchise who will, no doubt, lead the team for years to come.  McCoy has been in league for two seasons, one where he entered as the third string and was forced to play by injuries, and one with a lockout and a shortened off-season to work with teammates.  Would Colt improve exponentially with his first full-offseason as a starter?  This is the big question the front office has to decide. 

What makes this scenario interesting, is that while there will likely be a quarterback controversy (once again), the actual kind is still to be determined.  None of the scenarios have worked out, which is why another will likely arise.  In the previous seasons, we have seen why the circumstances failed. 

From years ago, we have seen guys vying for the starting quarterback job like two seasoned veterans (Delhomme/Wallace, Garcia/Holcomb, etc.).  The two veteran controversies both failed largely due to injuries, but also periods of underperformance.  The Browns in 2010 went back and forth between Delhomme and Wallace due to ankle injuries, while the 2004 season saw Jeff Garcia struggle and Kelly Holcomb sustain injuries.  In both scenarios, one quarterback of the duo was not with the Browns the following season; prompting not good enough play to warrant starting consideration (from the team’s perspective).  One would figure that if a veteran that has been in the NFL for several seasons and hasn’t cemented himself as a starter, there is a good reason why.

A few times fans have witnessed a pair of younger veterans (Couch/Holcomb, Frye/Anderson, etc.) who have competed as the starting play caller.  These seasons with competition also had injuries, but poor play highlighted the season-long debates.  The 2003 season saw Butch Davis juggle both Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb on a weekly basis as neither stood out as superior.  Where as Anderson relieved Frye in 2006 after injury, gave the job back prior to offseason camp in 2007 and regained the starting position after a miserable opener by Frye, who was released a few days later.

The final type of battle pitted a veteran against a rookie (Detmer/Couch, Dilfer/Frye, Anderson/Quinn, etc).  In 1999 and 2005 the older veteran was the opening day starter and failures behind center caused the team to turn to the rookie.  Couch was thrust into the starting lineup earlier than Frye, but nonetheless the two different scenarios (with different rosters) saw the young men struggle early at the position; both got several opportunities to keep the job in the seasons following but neither were able to maintain it and be the guy.

The Browns could avoid these three categories should the team come out and say 100% Colt McCoy is the starter, however otherwise it gets a little more complicated.  The first scenario would play out should the team pick up an older veteran (like a Kyle Orton) and having him compete with both Seneca Wallace and McCoy.  If the team acquires a younger veteran like Matt Flynn and who battles Colt, the second grouping would be present. If Robert Griffin III gets drafted, the final controversy would be seen in 2012.   

Having a controversy/competition isn’t necessarily the worst thing in football, but Cleveland has  seen it a few times in the past with less than desired results.  That’s why a majority of Browns fans do not want the to see the team be unsure of the signal caller heading into the season.  However, it seems apparent “the guy” may currently not be on the team, and after picking up the next quarterback, he will have to eventually compete and share time before developing into what fans and the team envisioned.

I personally would love to see Colt McCoy overcome what occurred this past season and lead the Browns toward a coveted Superbowl down the road.  I enjoy his demeanor and leadership skills and believe he can develop his play.  I’m tired of losing football and want to see a winner now, which I why I’m rooting for Colt to succeed, but realistically I’m just not sure its going to happen.

Having said that, I am all for the Browns bringing in another (and more importantly better) quarterback in the near future, but I am partial to it being an early draft pick over a free agent.  If Griffin is there at number four, and the Browns think he is the guy that will make the team consistently win for several years, take him and do not look back.  His time as starter will come before too long and the wins will pile up.  If the front office does not think he is that guy, continue to build around Colt until he either unleashes his full potential or get your franchise player down the road.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Offseason

 

NFL Draft…Best Time of the Year!

Passion + Losing = Impatience – Part III

Ah, the NFL Draft; the annual Super Bowl for Cleveland Browns fans.  Building a winning team for years to come is the ultimate goal for all 32 franchises; it occurs for a select few but for the most part teams are looking forward to make a push from mediocrity (or worse) to contenders.  The best way in accomplishing this, is to gain athletes that will bring good fortunes over a long span, not a play maker here and there that could fail without an adequate supporting cast.  One thing I’ve learned is that numerous fans of bad teams desire the performer that will make the team relevant (in their eyes) immediately, forgoing a possible building opportunity for the team (but only if the price is right).  

One thing that can infuriate Browns fans is trading out of their top ten pick (for either players or later draft selections).  A likely reason for this, is that it would be perceived that the franchise does not care about the present and would rather wait to win.  The Browns have done this twice recently (in 2009 and 2011) and subsequently won five games or fewer the following seasons.  However, other teams like the Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills, and Arizona Cardinals all drafted a player high (did not trade down) last season; the end result was not winning in the present either – none had winning seasons.  (It should be mentioned that I’m not advocating trading down just because a team has been bad recently; it should be considered only if it is extremely beneficial.) 

Teams typically trade down when the franchise has so many needs at multiple positions; they want to fill them with solid players while gaining future prospects.  After selecting several solid players annually, the team can then go for game-changers who will put the team over the top.  Unfortunately, the Browns franchise has not seen a solid roster where a single play maker could be selected to take them towards a championship.  Therefore, they have been using picks to trade down for multiple selections instead of trading up and getting “that guy”.

No other position in the National Football League lends itself to being the man to turn around the franchise like quarterback.  He is seen as the exciting pick whom the fans can rally behind.  The most popular player (a majority of the time) is thought to be able to take a down trodden team one year and make them a competitor the next. While this may happen from time to time (Andy Dalton), it is not the norm (Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, etc.) That being said, it is arguable that this is an impatient move that only the right teams should make in the right scenarios; fortunately the Browns have been patient with this in the past few seasons (when not having good team overall).

Teams (typically dearth of talent) drafting high (i.e. top five overall) and picking a quarterback may gain a few additional wins early, but the overall roster will not get better top to bottom.  However, selecting the “franchise” by an overall solid team will typically set up the player for early success, as not much will be asked by the team. The quarterback could rely on other areas (running game, defense, etc.) while he develops into that of a great player. 

The Browns have drafted a few defensive playmakers the past few seasons to make the unit respectable.  Their offense does need some help though, and the team could definitely use a few guys who put points on the board. 2012 is a season where a quarterback could finally be taken early in the draft, but other offensive areas (wide receiver, running back, lineman, etc.) of need should be thoroughly considered with the early picks.  I applaud the front office for their patience to the point where they can be flexible on who to take early. 

No matter which players the Browns select, the same type of philosophy must be used – draft the best player available.  It is important not to reach for a player that is less talented in order to shore up an area of need.  Doing so hinders the building process, as the player selected may not live up to expectations while a skipped-over player may have contributed to the teams success and also masked a deficiency where the team could use a later, inexpensive pick to fix the problem.  This includes the quarterback position; just because one is there that may be very good does not mean the team should ignore a great player who would help for many years.

Therefore, no matter when referring to coaching, free agency, or the NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns (and their fans) must be patient with the plan in place.  Not everything will be fixed overnight or in one offseason.  Firing the coach after a short tenure, picking up the biggest name free agent, or drafting the “franchise player” when the team is not ready are symptoms of a franchise that has seen a lot of losing over the years.  This may lead to future impatient decisions that will continue to hamper the organization.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in NFL Draft

 

Just Say No to Free Agency – For the Most Part

Passion + Losing = Impatience – Part II

Early March usually is thought of a boring part of the NFL season; but it actually brings one thing Browns fans look forward to – free agency.  This is a chance for teams to pick up good, proven players whose contract has expired and are seeking a change in their career.  Some older veterans receive modest deals that tend to go unnoticed, while the “flashy” playmakers get huge contracts and grab headlines on sporting networks.  This is where some Browns fans tend to gravitate to; they want to see their team get the big “splash” in free agency even though they are usually more than one player away from having a very good team.

After enduring multiple double-digit loss seasons, fans aspire to see someone who can come in and immediately improve the team.  This leads to acquiring free-agents (as opposed to drafting a player, which typically includes a developmental period depending on position).  This is another side effect of impatience which can cause the team being hamstrung if the player does not perform exceptionally. 

There are a few reasons why signing high-priced free agents is typically not a good way to run a franchise.  First, large contracts will prevent the team from signing other solid players which are important to depth.  A team should not put all its eggs in one player’s basket and should be able to withstand injuries and underperformance by a few.  Next, most of these players are likely free agents for a reason; locker room demeanor or play on the field could be worse than what the team (and fan base) was expecting.  They could cause all kinds of headaches for the coaching staff and long suffering supporters who watch the product.  Finally, for a young and upcoming team like the Browns, a sustainability of success lies in the draft not free agency.  With one of the younger rosters (read my previous blog – Browns by the Numbers – Part II) the team will grow and mature together as a whole. Gaining an older veteran or two can help, but an NFL team should not be littered with them.  After a few seasons these players are past their prime and the franchise will likely be on the hook for a large sum of money owed (which relates to the first point). 

A reason to not acquire several free agents in one season is that they are not necessarily an indicator of future success.  One only has to look at a few franchises’ recent track records to notice this trend.  Teams like the Washington Redskins are known for annually signing high priced players like Albert Haynesworth, Deion Sanders, Dana Stubblefield, etc. while showing little success on the field (i.e. one playoff win in seven years). The Browns were guilty of this a few years ago when picking up players Kevin Shaffer, Trent Dilfer, Donte Stallworth, etc.  Just because a team does well in March does not mean they will be better on the field in November.  Ask Philadelphia Eagle fans how expectations were compared to reality during this past season (after signing Nnamndi Asomuaugh).

To further understand why free agency is less important than the draft, we must (again) look at the franchises in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.  Each year the period of picking up players no longer under contract comes and goes while the front offices of the Ravens and Steelers rarely or never make headlines by picking up someone that will garner a huge contract and may still be a question mark in terms of production.  Instead, these teams use the period to sign players on their own roster who have just become free agents and are seeking new deals.  They have the luxury of those free agents already knowing the type of system run by the team, while they avoid having to overpay for players outside the organization. That is common occurrence for struggling teams like the Cleveland Browns looking for new personnel.  Once a franchise has a few successful drafts, they should be set up for years to come; hence they ignore the impulsive move of expensively trying to replace past management missteps. 

Free agency is a microcosm of impatience of professional football as a whole, and a quick fix now does not necessarily lead to immediate improvement and victories on a regular basis.  Browns fans, look to the models of teams that know how to build and compete year in and year out; reckless moves should not be made just to appease their fans.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Free Agency

 

Why Browns Fans are Impatient – Part I

Passion + Losing = Impatience – Part I

 This is the time of year that Browns fans typically relish talking and debating about – the offseason.  Whether it’s the “upgrading” of the coaching staff (I use quotes as turnover seems to regularly be perceived as upgrades), the opportunity to sign available free agents, or the options in the April draft (we have the #4th, #22nd, and #37thpicks, by the way); football fans of the team from Lake Erie look forward to the possibilities of improving the team as much as possible in a small time frame.  However, over the past few years, many are growing tired and impatient with team ownership.  The two main factors for this are the recent track record of the team and the undying affection of the franchise from those who support it.

Cleveland Browns fans are some of the most knowledgeable, passionate, and proud people in the world.  There are several local television and radio stations that exclusively cover the team on a daily basis (some all year-round like “Browns Daily” on WKNR).  The Browns Backers Organization has 360 chapters that spread over ten countries.  Heck last year they voted a Browns player (who many considered undeserving) on the cover of the Madden video game.  This outspoken base cares deeply about their team. 

Additionally, they seek to puff out their chest and proclaim their team as superior to all others.  However, since returning to the league in 1999, the team has seen little success (68 wins and 141 losses – including one playoff loss) while supporters’ frustrations mount.  This has led to a transformation in fan support – from previously giving the team time to rebuild and grow to winning now and worrying about the future later.

The firing of the head coach has been a popular offseason move in the past few seasons.  Looking back at a few full-time (not including interim coaches) leaders of the team such as Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Butch Davis, and Chris Palmer; one notices each man receiving four years or less at the position.  This is a short time period for a coach to accomplish many of his goals.  This trend has becoming the norm in the National Football League lately, as fans grow quickly tired of the current staff and assume the next one will turn the team around.  

What most fans don’t realize is that when there is turnover without a foundation in place (like the Browns), the team will likely continue to struggle.  An NFL team rebuilds each time a new coach is hired whose philosophies differ from the previous regime’s.  Without a strong front office that has been in place for years, the franchise will expect to see rapid changes (personnel, schemes, etc.); it will take a few seasons to see the final product. 

Fans perennially used to losing and disappointment get upset when the playoffs roll around without their team being represented.  Browns fans have seen this all too often and voice that something be done now so they can be good the following year.  Having said that, each season appears as if every coach’s job is on the line which is not a good philosophy for the coach or the team. 

Winning at all costs (see Mangini bringing in older vets to snare an extra win or two) can stunt the development of the team down the road.  When this occurs, mediocrity sets in and two years later the coach would be fired and a whole new rebuilding process occurs.  The Browns have followed this model way too many times in the past thirteen year period.  From this, one thing the fan base should now possess is patience.   

Reviewing the tenures of coaches around the division; Pittsburgh (Mike Tomlin – five years after following Bill Cowher’s fifteen year stint), Baltimore (John Harbaugh – four years after following Brian Billick’s nine years as coach), and Cincinnati (Marvin Lewis – nine years as coach) have all had coaches that endured fairly lengthly coaching terms.    Not surprisingly, all three teams made the 2011 NFL playoffs; something the Cleveland Browns were miles away from doing. 

This proves that giving a coach time to work with his roster can lead to success in the NFL.  One example is Jeff Fisher, who suffered five losing seasons before seeing the playoffs.  He eventually turned that into a seventeen year term with Houston/Tennessee with five playoff appearances and a 142 win and 120 loss record. Additionally, Gary Kubiak was with the Texans for five seasons and finally made the playoffs in the team’s sixth season; the team appears to have a bright future.  Mike Holmgren, after sneaking into the playoffs in his first season at Seattle in 1999, had three seasons of futility before his five-year playoff run beginning in 2003.  Finally, Jim Schwartz had seasons of two and six wins respectively before reaching the playoffs in 2011.  Give the coach the right resources and success will likely occur; it does not always happen instantaneously.  If the team can be patient with the coach, why can’t the fans?

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Cleveland Browns Fans

 

Browns By the Numbers – Part II of II

Browns By The Numbers – Part II of II 

Continuing the trend of using http://www.pro-football-reference.com to review and analyze the four
seasons following the 2007 (fluke) season, I reviewed a few additional trends.

Focusing on the six divisional games over the past four years and point ratios in those contests:

2008 – Loss to Steelers by 4, Loss to Ravens by 18, Win over Bengals by 8, Loss to Ravens by
10, Loss to Bengals by 14, Loss to Steelers by 31 – Overall point differential – -69 pts

2009 – Loss to Ravens by 31, Loss to Bengals by 3, Loss to Steelers by 13, Loss to Ravens by
16, Loss to Bengals by 9, Win over Steelers by 7 – Overall point differential – -65 pts

2010 – Loss to Ravens by 7, Win over Bengals by 3, Loss to Steelers by 18, Loss to Bengals by
2, Loss to Ravens by 10, Loss to Steelers by 32 – Overall point differential – -66 pts

2011 – Loss to Bengals by 10, Loss to Bengals by 3, Loss to Ravens by 14, Loss to Steelers by
11, Loss to Ravens by 6, Loss to Steelers by 4 – Overall point differential – -48 pts

– Although the 2011 Cleveland Browns did not win a single division game, their overall point
differential has been better then the previous three seasons. There has been an approximate 28%
improvement over the past three seasons.

The close to favorable 20 point disparity is pretty remarkable, considering even a fluke win
could have significantly lowered this amount. Six of the annual sixteen games are inter-division
match-ups and are vital in becoming a successful NFL franchise. Improving in this area is key
in the future development of the Cleveland Browns. Obviously wins are desired as opposed to
close losses but, with the steady implementation of improved personnel, these will come in time.
Based off of the fact the defense has already improved and the offense has been able to move the
ball in 2011, I’m lead to believe inter-division victories will follow in 2012.

Comparing the Cleveland Browns average roster age since 2008:

2008 – 26.7 years old
2009 – 27.2 years old
2010 – 27.5 years old
2011 – 25.7 years old

– This is by far the youngest roster in four years. A decrease of 1.8 years per player is huge
considering the importance of speed and athleticism in the game. Attrition begins to set in
with the older veterans, and although it’s a case by case basis, a vast majority lose an ability to
compete. Therefore, a younger losing team is better than an older losing team.

They have been winning about the same number of games compared to the past few years while
maintaining a roster full of youthful athletes. Putting faith in the coaching staff to develop the
players’ talent and abilities (arguments aside, this is visible with several players), we should

potentially see a top-to-bottom improvement in 2012 and beyond. This obviously will be based
upon the general manager to select the correct players in the offseason, but for the most part he
has not given me a reason to think otherwise.

Listing the 2011 playoff teams average roster ages:

AFC –Patriots – 26.3 years old, Ravens – 26.5 years old, Texans – 26.7 years old, Broncos –
26.1 years old, Steelers – 27.0 years old, Bengals – 25.5 years old

NFC –Packers – 25.3 years old, 49ers – 26.0 years old, Saints – 26.1 years old, Giants – 26.3
years old, Falcons – 26.4 years old, Lions – 26.5 years old

Reviewing the playoff teams this season, only the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers
have younger rosters. Both teams have been known for relying heavily on the draft and skirting
high-priced free agency acquisitions.

It’s going to be very difficult to envision future playoff scenarios without the Packers. An
extremely young roster who is winning now is a great formula for present and future success.
I’ve got to admire the off-season for the Bengals as well. Granted their team may be the weakest
of the twelve playoff teams, but still their future seems to be bright.

Seeing how the Browns are younger than the remaining ten playoff teams, it’s crucial to continue
to improve overall so if I update this statistic in 2012 and 2013 the Cleveland Browns name will
appear. The roster age will be likely similar to those teams listed in the 2011 playoffs. Teams
with staying power (a.k.a. perennial playoff contenders) know how to effectively adjust rosters
based on players’ abilities and the salary cap availability on a yearly basis. While the Browns
will get more experienced (and hopefully improved), it will be interesting to see how the older
teams like the Steelers, Texans, and Ravens turn over their roster in the coming months.

Therefore, five good points relating to an improving defense, an offense that can move the ball
down the field (and may be a only a few players away from consistently putting the ball in the
end zone), a more competitive team, and a young roster that can develop down the road should
give Browns fans hope, if nothing else, for the future.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Offseason