Gridiron Blitz: Cleveland Browns Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Cleveland Browns

Music to listen to: Foe Tha Love of $ by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

This music choice was the easiest one to date. Bone Thugs are one of my favorite musical groups ever and one of the best things to ever come out of Cleveland.

Current State: Things have been better for the city overall for sports. The Indians are going through another losing season, the Cavs just lost Lebron James in such a tactless way that the entire sports world actually feels sympathy for them. Now the Browns come back calling with a new front office and hopes that things can improve.

Biggest Change: The Browns have made their new attempt at respectability with the hiring of new president Mike Holmgren. He’s won a Super Bowl championship with Green Bay and took Seattle to the title game as well, so Holmgren has won in two locations. He has rebuilt two franchises and takes on his biggest challenge yet.

On the field, the elimination of Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn from the quarterback position was a necessary step for the franchise to move forward. With the signing of Jake Delhomme and drafting of Colt McCoy, the Browns have made an increase in the leadership position on the field.

Uniform Grade: I respect the legacy of Paul Brown just as much as the next man but the uniforms are pathetic. The colors of brown and orange make them look unprofessional to the point that I don’t know if I’m looking at an NFL game or a junior high contest with two teams that picked up their unis at the local sporting goods store. Arguably the worst uniforms in the entire league. I mean, the frickin logo for the team IS the helmet. Amateur mentality for a professional team. Grade: D+

Best Player: There isn’t a lot to pick from but two players emerged, Joe Thomas and Joshua Cribbs. I’ll go with Thomas because combined with left guard Eric Steinbach and center Alex Mack, the Browns may have the best left-sided offensive line in the NFL, which is a good thing.

Also, some mention should also go to defensive tackle Shaun Rodgers but his injury-prone nature demotes him from this honor.

With Thomas, the Browns at least know that they can run the ball on that side if all else fails and protect the future quarterback of the future that they choose, most likely McCoy.

Most Important Player: Thomas is very important to the team as stated earlier but Cribbs not only gives the Browns an offensive weapon at receiver but also is an excellent return man for kicks and punts, giving the struggling offense better field position to work with.

Best Case: The team continues its growth from the depths. Delhomme at least provides the offense with stability and keeps the seat warm for McCoy for one season. Cribbs shows more consistency on offense. The defense plays well, similar to last season. Four or five wins overall.

Worst Case: Everything that went wrong last year continues, minus the four-game winning streak at the end of the season.

Coaching: The fact that Eric Mangini is still employed with the Browns is concerning as well. I don’t care if the Browns won their final four games but before that, they were one of the worst 1-11 teams in recent memory. His cold arrogance and treatment of players, management and the entire Browns franchise was embarrassing to view.

However, maybe the change in senior management will be good for him because I trust Holmgren wouldn’t be unwise enough to keep Mangini on staff when he can obviously get someone else to coach the team.

First Memory of team: I was a little too young to experience the brutal AFC playoff losses of the Browns in the 1980’s but I do remember when Bill Belichick became the head coach and started importing almost every former Giant possible. It cut your boy a little bit when I saw Pepper Johnson wearing the brown and orange, it did cut at your boy some.

My biggest memory is when the Browns moved to Baltimore. Even as a teenager, I knew that was messed up. I’ve fortunately never had my favorite team move to another city. What Art Modell did to that city was terrible, however as a sports manager who looks at the business operations side of a professional team, I understand why the move was made.

This may be a topic for another post because the focus is on the current edition of the Browns but if you were Modell and had the financial situation that you did between the loss of revenues, a bad stadium and other negatives and another city like Baltimore provided you with a better opportunity for your team and you make a profit, you have to make that move.

Schedule: They have to deal with Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the division.

As far as home games, they get Kansas City, Atlanta, New England, New York, Carolina. They may be an underdog in each of those contest, at best even with the Chiefs and Panthers. The road slate includes Tampa, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Miami and Buffalo. Those games are more forgiving but still difficult for the Browns.

City Nicknames: The only official one that I could find was “The Forest City,” which is terrible because when I think of Cleveland, forests aren’t on the top of the list. Some call it “The Mistake by the Lake.” I’ve never been to Cleveland but that’s just cruel.

Fantasy Focus: If you have a Brown on your roster, your team will probably not do well in your league. If you have more than one Brown, just give up and focus on something else like reading a book or learning that foreign language you’ve been meaning to get to.

Overall Outlook: This season will be rough for the Browns and not just last place in the division, I’m talking about the potential to have the worst record in the entire league. Holmgren is a good start at the top but with the shaky quarterback situation and Mangini still coaching the team, I have no optimism for this team.

Final Record: 3-13

Gridiron Blitz NFL Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

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