Cleveland Browns: What Does NFL History Tell Us About 0-4 Starts?
Beginning a season 0-4 is damaging to a team's confidence, and it doesn't help the Browns much that their schedule remains brutal throughout the 2012 season. Every team Cleveland has fallen to is 2-1 (Eagles, Bengals, Bills and Ravens), and there is not one cake game remaining.
Although the Browns have played tremendously well on defense considering the offensive woes by comparison, this young team has a long way to go. With that, let's take a look at the differences between the 2012 Browns and from 20 years ago, the 1992 Chargers .
1992 San Diego Chargers
One thing to remember about this Chargers team was their veteran key players.
Quarterback Stan Humphries was entering his fourth season after backing Mark Rypien of the Washington Redskins from 1989 through 1991. If anything, Humphries learned well behind Rypien and from legendary head coach Joe Gibbs to flourish once given an opportunity.
Not to mention, the Redskins had won the Super Bowl a year earlier, so Humphries had a small taste of success despite being a backup. Another key component of San Diego was running back Marion Butts.
Entering the '92 campaign, Butts came in after two straight Pro Bowl selections and was one of the better ball-carriers in the NFL. So just by hitting defenses on the ground and setting up play action, the Chargers offense was legitimately balanced.
Defensively was where San Diego really impressed.
Key players such as linebacker Junior Seau and defensive end Leslie O'Neal were two of the best at their respective positions. Other important defenders included rookie defensive lineman Chris Mims and veteran linebacker Gary Plummer.
This team was filled with talent across the board, and the 0-4 start was surprising if anything. Nevertheless, the Bolts did find a rhythm by Week 5 and closed out the regular season at 11-1.
Finishing 11-5, San Diego was swept by the Kansas City Chiefs in the regular season.
However, the Chargers would have the final laugh by blanking K.C., 17-0, in the AFC Wild Card. The year may have ended at 12-6 after losing to the Miami Dolphins in the divisional round, but it's certainly one impressive feat considering the 0-4 start.
What year will be the Browns' best chance to make the playoffs?
2012 Cleveland Browns
Fear not Browns fans. You have one extremely young team that displayed an immense amount of potential on Thursday night.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden showed why he has the arm to make every NFL throw, and his consistent poise in stepping into the pocket was impressive. Running back Trent Richardson also shined with 104 total yards.
When looking back at the 1992 Chargers, Cleveland has two rookies at quarterback and running back compared to two veterans. So yes, that's one major distinction.
On defense, no Cleveland player has the established stature of a Junior Seau, although D'Qwell Jackson, Craig Robertson and Scott Fujita make for a solid unit of linebackers. The Browns secondary also displayed promise against Baltimore as Joe Flacco was limited to a 60.8 completion percentage.
Cleveland has the ability to get consistent quarterback pressure, force turnovers and slow down explosive attacks from the beginning. What's hurting the Browns more than anything right now is the offense's inability to start faster.
Through four games, the Browns have scored just six points in the first quarter. Unsurprisingly, Cleveland ranks No. 29 in rushing offense and only No. 18 in passing. Having scored 21 points in the second quarter and 46 points in the second half this season, a quicker beginning of games will turn the Browns' fortunes around.
Cleveland's bye week doesn't happen until Week 10 either, so with the New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts lined up next, the opportunity to play well against formidable opponents presents itself.
And if the Browns can continue to build off their Week 4 performance, confidence will rise in Cleveland.
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