In the National Football League, 14 days can make a world of difference, and the Cleveland Browns learned that after their loss on Sunday. It was just two short weeks ago that the Browns had a chance to pull within a half-game of the AFC North lead, but now it looks like losing would be the better option.
No team in the NFL throws games. Once you get into a season, you just try and win with what you have on the roster. For the Browns, what they have left on the roster might be bad enough to give them one of the worst records in the NFL this year.
And that wouldn’t be that bad of a scenario.
With a 4-7 record, the Browns currently sit as the eighth pick in next year’s NFL draft. They also own the Indianapolis Colts’ first-round pick.
The Browns are in the midst of a 1-5 skid and have played two extremely disappointing games in a row to divisional foes. The same schedule that seemed so weak just 14 days ago is looking much tougher.
Next week they welcome in the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have won two of their last three games. They also have to travel to New England, play in New York against the Jets and host the Chicago Bears and Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Besides Jacksonville, the combined record of the Browns' remaining opponents is 23-20. That is not an easy road.
Besides a tough schedule, the Browns also face the fact that their defense is riddled with injuries. Inside linebacker Craig Robertson missed Sunday’s loss with a knee injury, and then his replacement Tank Carder left the game with a shoulder injury. Also, cornerback Buster Skrine has a rib injury, and those are just on the defensive side of the football.
The biggest blow came on offense Sunday when quarterback Jason Campbell was blindsided on sack and remained on the grass for a few minutes. Head coach Rob Chudzinski said after the game, via Nate Ulrich of The Akron-Beacon Journal, that Campbell has a concussion and will be evaluated Monday, but they may need to bring in another quarterback.
#BrownsHC Chud said QB Jason Campbell has concussion.
— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) November 24, 2013
#BrownsHC Chud said there's possibility team will sign QB but will find out Campbell's status first.
— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) November 24, 2013
So Brandon Weeden will most likely be the Browns starter once again. Forgive me for not having confidence in a guy who has completed just 50 percent of his passes this year, thrown seven interceptions to just six touchdowns and has a quarterback rating of less than 66.
Maybe his return is a good thing, however.
If the Browns cannot make the playoffs and the safe money says they cannot, then why not reap the benefits of bad luck for once? Would a 2-9 finish really hurt that badly? How different would that be from most years?
It would be very different. I’ll explain.
If the Browns finished with five wins, that would put them somewhere between the first and 12th pick in the draft, but it would most likely earn them a top-six spot. If they had a pick in the first six and an extra pick from Indianapolis, they could finally land a top-tier quarterback to lead their franchise with ease.
It sounds like the same old story but it’s really not.
Since 1999, the Browns have selected a quarterback near the top of the first-round just one time: Tim Couch. He was drafted onto an expansion team and had no chance of succeeding behind one of the worst offensive lines in the history of football.
Every other quarterback the Browns have drafted has been a fix-a-flat quarterback. They were guys who tumbled way down the draft board (Brady Quinn and Colt McCoy), guys who they reached up too far to grab (Brandon Weeden), mediocre free agents (Jake Delhomme and Jason Campbell) or experimental quarterbacks who had no business being a starter (Charlie Frye).
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|QUARTERBACK||HOW HE WAS ACQUIRED|
|Jason Campbell||Free Agency|
|Brian Hoyer||Free Agency|
|Brandon Weeden||First-round, 22nd pick|
|Thad Lewis||Free Agency|
|Colt McCoy||Third-round, 85th pick|
|Seneca Wallace||Free Agency|
|Jake Delhomme||Free Agency|
|Brady Quinn||First-round, 22nd pick|
|Derek Anderson||Claimed off waivers|
|Bruce Gradkowski||Free Agency|
|Luke McCown||Fourth round, 106th pick|
|Charlie Frye||Third-round, 67th pick|
|Trent Dilfer||Free Agency|
|Jeff Garcia||Free Agency|
|Kelly Holcomb||Free Agency|
|Tim Couch||First-round, 1st pick|
|Doug Pederson||Free Agency|
|Spergon Wynn||Sixth-round, 183rd pick|
Cleveland Browns Media Guide
It is time the Browns tried to find their franchise quarterback the same way most teams do: by drafting one of the top talents coming out of college early in the first round.
There is no better year to do it either, as this is thought to be one of the deepest, most talented quarterback classes in recent memory.
Does a rookie quarterback fix everything? No, but a rookie quarterback with Pro Bowl talent, $25 million in cap space to spend next offseason and an already elite defense is a heck of a start.
So while losing hurts, at least this time there is a glimmer of hope at the end of that painful road. After all, fans were happy with the play of quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell this season.
Why wouldn’t they trust the same front office who signed them to pick the quarterback who can take the team to the next level? After rebuilding the defense last offseason and bringing in the two most competitive quarterbacks in recent memory, I think they have earned a little trust.