Sometimes when a team loses, like when the Cleveland Browns lost to the New England Patriots on Sunday, it reveals more about the future than the current state of the team. Even in defeat, deeper truths can be revealed.
The Browns didn’t just lose to the Patriots. The way they lost was so Cleveland. They ran out to a huge lead, played well enough to hold off a Patriots comeback, and were still done in by questionable officiating and a lucky bounce.
In the wake of the loss, fans and media members criticized the officials for throwing a pass interference flag that put the Patriots at the Cleveland 1-yard line. They would eventually score.
However, as the anger and disappointment raged all around me, I couldn’t help but see the silver linings that accompanied the loss.
Most times, when a team plummets as quickly as the Browns did and the playoffs are no longer a reality, coaches can lose a locker room. Even if they don’t lose the locker room, it is tough to get a full effort from guys who are now playing out the string.
Head coach Rob Chudzinski not only got his guys to play hard, but they put together one of their most complete performances of the season. They did this on the road against one of the best teams in the NFL.
Chudzinski proved that he is a legitimate coach in the NFL this season. His future looks very bright with the Browns.
The brightest portion of Sunday’s silver lining was the performance of wide receiver Josh Gordon, who proved he is for real. There is nothing fluky about back-to-back games of over 200 yards receiving. But when “the Hoodie,” Bill Belichick, game-plans to stop you and you still dominate, you are special.
Belichick talked all week about how dominant Gordon is and how he is the key to what the Browns do offensively. If you put his words through the Belichick translation machine, it would say, “You stop Gordon and the Browns become, well, the Browns.”
Even with Belichick scheming against him, Gordon proceeded to catch seven passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Welcome to the big time, Josh.
If he can be this dominant with a string of poor-to-mediocre quarterbacks, then imagine how good he could be with an elite pass-thrower.
Speaking of the quarterback, it’s funny how well the Browns play when the guy behind center is not awful. If the Browns get the right guy in next year’s draft, they could be dangerous as soon as next season.
It was also nice to see tight end Jordan Cameron get himself back on track. He had been rarely seen since Week 4, but he showed up in a big way against New England. He caught nine balls for 121 yards and a touchdown.
The next quarterback will have two big-time weapons at his disposal.
Finally, and most importantly, they did not win.
As crazy as that sounds, it is the truth. I would not have been angry if the Browns won the game. You should always try to win. But the reality of the Browns' predicament now is that losses are valuable; they lead to a better draft position. So if the Browns win, then great. If they lose, that’s great too.
So even though the scoreboard showed a loss on Sunday, the field showed much more than that. It showed there is a future in Cleveland.
The biggest piece missing now is the franchise quarterback, which has eluded Cleveland since Bernie Kosar’s reign. As always, however, acquiring that piece is easier said than done.