The Cleveland Browns have qualified for the NFL Playoffs once since being reformed as an NFL expansion team in 1999. Just two times in that near 20-year span has seen the Browns have a better than .500 record. No other NFL franchise has been as bad as the Browns in modern football. Cleveland’s ineptitude is reminiscent of the New Orleans Saints 20 years of failing from the 1960s to the 1980s along with the Tampa Buccaneers godawful 1970s and 1980s. However, the Browns have hit new lows that no other NFL franchise has experienced.
Talented Teams and Inconsistency
Despite being the NFL’s worst team, the Browns have had some very talented teams. Yet, the team’s player consistency has been one of the biggest problems that continues to set them back. Cleveland have played 30 different starting quarterbacks in 20 seasons. This year alone has seen the team play two different signal callers in four games. Tyrod Taylor has started three games while rookie No.1 pick Baker Mayfield has started once.
Mayfield started the Browns 45-42 shootout loss to the Oakland Raiders in week 4. The loss came one week after Mayfield replaced an injured Taylor and led the Browns to a 21-17 win over the New York Jets. The win over the Jets ended Cleveland’s 19-game winless streak. Now, it looks like Mayfield is set to remain as the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart. Meanwhile, Taylor isn’t ruling out a trade after playing just two full games with the Browns.
This brings the Browns back to the lack of consistency they have had a quarterback. The franchise has chopped and changed signal callers when thing haven’t gone well in the past. The constant change has hurt the team over and over again. Now, the franchise is ready to put its future in the hands of yet another rookie. If things go wrong with Mayfield, it won’t be long again until the Browns make another change.
The 2018 NFL Season
Cleveland started the 2018 season well enough with Taylor under center. The rainy weather and wind caused poor play on opening day against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Taylor managed just 197 yards passing. Yet, the Browns played well enough and mounted a fourth quarter 14-point comeback to force overtime. The Browns couldn’t see out the game and win in the extra period. The game ended in a tie.
Week 2 saw the Browns surrender a 12-3 fourth quarter lead to the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees led the Saints back to win with a 44-yard field goal in the final 21 seconds. Both games should have ended in Saints wins.
Against Oakland in week 4, Mayfield’s play still left plenty to be desired. He may have thrown for 295 yards and two scores, but he also threw two interceptions and fumbled twice. One interception was returned for an Oakland touchdown. Despite the mistakes, the Browns nearly pulled off a second win of the season.
But the loss wasn’t entirely the team’s fault.
In the wake of the Browns’ loss to Oakland, the NFL has admitted an officiating error that cost Cleveland the game. Cleveland’s luck just doesn’t seem to improve with age. In fact, the Browns had two calls wrongly called during the game. The first came when Oakland quarterback Derek Carr was tackled by Myles Garrett and Genard Avery. Carr lost the ball and it was picked up by Garrett and returned for a touchdown. The score would have sealed the game for the Browns, but it was overturned by the officials. NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron has publicly stated the call was wrong and the Browns’ touchdown should have stood. The second officiating error came on a Carlos Hyde run that was overturned by replay. The run, which resulted in a first down, should have stood. Head coach Hue Jackson then decided to punt on fourth down rather go for it on fourth and inches.
Who’s to Blame for Cleveland’s Bad Performances?
The fingers have been pointed for years. Who is the person or persons to blame for Cleveland’s continual bad play? Some must be laid at the feet of current coach Jackson. Now in his third season, Jackson has won just two games as Browns coach. But to blame him for everything would be foolish.
The majority of blame in Cleveland must go on the franchise’s executives and front office. They are the ones who put Jackson in charge after one unsuccessful coaching season with the Oakland Raiders in 2011. It is the same front office who chose not the pursue Jimmy Garoppolo when the New England Patriots prepared to trade him a season ago.
Regardless of the quality players available at Jackson’s disposal, the people on the sidelines and upstairs are preventing the Browns from moving forward on the field. Even though Cleveland Municipal Stadium is long gone, the Browns and their FirstEnergy Stadium are the new ‘mistake by the lake’.