Losing has grappled the best of Cleveland city sports.
Locked in the frigid cellar of the brutal, bruising AFC North, the Cleveland Browns have been asphyxiated, tarnished, and squashed. The Browns have been consistently weak, and offer no competition to the NFL elites.
Constant coaching and front office shuffling has put this team in a never-ending cycle of dismay and loss. Dating back to 2008, the team has not surpassed five wins in a regular season.
However, two prodigious signs are pointing to at least minimal improvement for the Browns. QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson both have a year under their belt and will mature as football players, the new front office/head coach group is strikingly smart.
Weeden and Richardson were the Browns’ 2012 first round picks. In 2012, Weeden threw for 3385 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. Expect those numbers to rise/sink to around 3800 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Last year, Richardson rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns, and expect 1250 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Secondly, the Browns have a new owner, CEO, GM, and Head Coach. All this turnover will change the direction of the team. Why?
Owner Jimmy Haslam has been in the business world for years, and understands the important nature of growing a unit. CEO Joe Banner has been in football front offices since 1994. GM Mike Lombardi has worked in front offices from 1981-2007, before becoming an analyst and writer. HC Rob Chudzinski has been coaching since 1994, most recently as offensive coordinator of the explosive, Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers.
Haslam, Banner, Lombardi, and Chudzinski are smart and innovative. Weeden and Richardon’s maturity tagged with the new front office/head coach quad will generate improvement in the win column. They won’t be in the playoffs this January, but expect between seven to eight wins for Cleveland.