The Cleveland Browns put up their third straight win on Sunday, blowing out the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-7, marking the first time they've had a win streak that long since the end of the 2009 season. It's also their fifth win in their last eight games, making them 5-8 after their 0-5 start to the year.
With a turnaround like that, the Browns can only be described as a team that has made real, tangible progress this year; a team that has learned from past mistakes and corrected them. This progress might just make all the difference for those in the coaching staff and front office who found their job security under question when Jimmy Haslam took over ownership of the team and installed Joe Banner as CEO.
Aside from an 80-yard Jamaal Charles touchdown run to open the game, the Browns gave up zero additional points to the Chiefs while putting up 30 unanswered of their own. The Browns didn't turn the ball over once, dominated in time of possession and both ran and passed the ball well, defeating a two-win Chiefs team without much struggle.
Again, the offensive star of the show was wide receiver Josh Gordon, who had 86 yards on his eight receptions and was targeted 12 times. Running back Trent Richardson added two touchdowns to the Browns' total, though he only gained 42 yards on his 18 carries. Travis Benjamin logged the longest punt return for a touchdown in franchise history, a 93-yarder in the second quarter, while kicker Phil Dawson went over 100 points in a season for the sixth time in his career.
On offense for the Chiefs, Charles added only 85 additional rushing yards beyond that 80-yard score, while fellow back Peyton Hillis, making his return to Cleveland where he once played, netted just 11 yards on his five carries.
Kansas City's passing game produced little results, with quarterback Brady Quinn completing only 10 of his 21 passes for 159 yards and an interception, and none of his receiving targets had more than two catches. Quinn was also sacked five times, for a loss of 29 yards.
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden continued to make strides. While he had two batted-down passes (giving him a total of 17 on the year) and was sacked three times, he threw no picks and completed 17 of his 30 passes for 217 yards. In addition to five catches for Gordon, Weeden connected with Greg Little four times for 69 yards, including a 34-yard reception that set up a Richardson score.
All told, a win such as this—dominant, over a team that should have been dominated—should do a lot to save the jobs of Browns general manager Tom Heckert, head coach Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator Brad Childress and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron.
Already, Heckert's seat appeared to have cooled over the past few weeks, considering how well his draft picks have paid off. And with this late spate of wins, Shurmur and the rest of the coaching staff can now make a far stronger case for why they should remain with the team, despite the change in ownership (and potentially, philosophy).
Shurmur isn't without his flaws—he's made strange play calls all season long and seemed to want to fit square-peg Weeden into the round hole of his West Coast offense—but he's slowly learned the strengths of his young team just as the players have begun to discover them, themselves.
Errors are on the decrease while wins are on the increase, and there's nothing like an improved win-loss record from one season to the next to warrant a coach getting another year on the job.
A second-year coach who is finally getting tangible results out of his team—a young team, at that—deserves to have a degree of continuity in his career, as does his team deserve continuity in their coaching staff.
What Shurmur and the rest of his staff needed to save their jobs were wins, and now the Browns have three in a row and five in their last eight contests.
As long as the Browns don't regress over their final three games, there's a body of evidence complete enough to warrant another season with Shurmur at the helm of the team and Heckert making the draft-day calls.
It took time—an uncomfortably long amount of time, for some—but the proof is in the record. The Browns have a legitimate chance to end their season with seven or eight wins, and if they do, Shurmur, Heckert and the rest of the old guard shouldn't be going anywhere.