Rearview Mirror is a weekly piece where I re-evaluate the previous Cleveland Browns game a couple of days after it is played, just to give me a a little time for reflection before the team prepares for the coming week’s game.
But the Browns last played 10 days ago because of the bye week. At first I figured I would write about the previous game – a 23-21 loss to the Baltimore Ravens – a couple days later, as I normally do, but, instead, I decided to use the time to let that last game, as well as the season, sink in.
For a few days after the loss to the Ravens, I was upset with the team. They didn’t execute, not the players, not the coaches. Two days later, I felt the same as I did just after the game. 10 days later, I feel differently.
So what do I think after a week and a half?
I’m disappointed. I really began to believe in this team as it played quarter after quarter of real NFL football. I started out doubting this year’s team, then started to believe, and then watched them go back to being the Browns of old at the end of the Baltimore game.
That loss, that failure to execute when it mattered the most, the 1-2 record, all makes me wonder, “Is this team really any different from the Browns teams of the previous six years?” It’s not like we haven’t had hope in those six years. It’s not like we haven’t seen the team play impressively for a couple of games, only to watch it regress as the season went along.
I have to be honest; whatever this team sold me on in the first two games and most of the third game has returned. I’m not saying that I now think the team is bad, but I have returned to my wait-and-see attitude.
I love the Browns. Not fanatically, but it bothers me when they’re bad and it makes me happy when they do well. And after years of watching them fail, after years of waiting for a new season to start, filled with hopes of seeing this thing finally get turned around, only to watch them meltdown and play just as awful as they played the year before, I went into Show Me mode.
I will say that I have not lost my faith in the coaching staff. I just wonder if they have the horses to make this thing work. You can be the best coach in the world, but you can’t win without the players. The big question is: Do the Browns have the players?
Well, do they?
They cannot stop the run. They can’t cover. They lack wide receivers. They are scrappy and I think the leaders have the right attitude, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in most games. In the end, though, I expect that their overall record will be a reflection of the first three games, coming away with four or five wins.
I do have one glimmer of hope, though, if this team really is to be better than expected this season: The early bye week.
When the schedule came out, it looked bad. Teams like to use the bye week to let their players heal and recover from the grind of an NFL season. A bye in the fourth week of the season does not allow that to happen.
What I think it does allow is for the coaching staff to work on correcting mistakes in techniques, “coach ‘em up” as they like to say. The bye week allows time for them to evaluate the team and maybe find better ways of maximizing the team’s potential while there’s still a lot of season left.
That’s my hope, that this team is better than I think it is, that my own evaluating is tainted by the past, that I am not clear in my thinking, but jaded and pessimistic. This bye week allows the coaches to right the ship, so to speak.
Let’s be fair, they’ve played three games and each one came down to a last second field goal. Maybe there’s a small hump that got flattened out last week.
I hope so. We’ll just have to wait and see.