Cleveland Browns: Five Reasons Why an NFL Lockout Won't Hurt Them
As the clock ticks down to what appears to be an inevitable work stoppage, many experts are suggesting that the Cleveland Browns will fare worse than most NFL teams.
A new coach, new offensive and defensive schemes and new players all suggest that a shortened, or non-existent, preseason would hurt a young team with a lot to learn.
But if we know one thing about the NFL, it’s that the experts are frequently wrong. To win in this league requires talent along with a generous amount of luck and opportunity.
For the first time since returning in 1999, the Browns may have finally removed the dysfunction that was always bubbling beneath the surface. Mike Holmgren is firmly exerting his control on this team. And with a general manager and head coach pulling in the same direction, the Cleveland Browns may be a lot better off than the experts think.
This slide show will give you five things to consider and discuss as we wait for the players and owners to reach an agreement that will make all the debating meaningless.
Reason No. 1: The Benefit of Low Expectations
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Let’s get the luck part out of the way.
In their season finale, the Browns got mauled by the Steelers 41-9. It was a game that put a black eye on a team that, despite going through three quarterbacks, displayed some promise.
The Browns are ranked last or close to it in almost every preseason power ranking. Granted, power rankings this early in the offseason are about as meaningless as the first preseason game, but it suggests that the Browns will not be a victim of great expectations.
This team will have every opportunity to catch more than one team sleeping, especially teams that might take a while to fire on all cylinders.
If that’s too much pixie dust for you, then consider the next reason …
Reason No. 2: A Favorable Schedule
2011 brings the Sam Bradford-Colt McCoy rivalry to the NFL
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Next up is the opportunity.
Last season, the Browns played the second toughest schedule in the league. Statistics can be misleading, but when you take a team lacking in playmakers, add injuries, then mix in a tough schedule—you have all the ingredients for a 5-11 season.
This year, the Browns get to play the NFC West. This division should be better than it was last year, but only the St. Louis Rams have a settled quarterback situation. With uncertainty surrounding the labor situation, having a clear cut starter will be crucial.
The Browns also battle the AFC South. Yes, that means Peyton Manning. But this division is not as daunting as it was maybe a couple of years ago. It’s certainly not as tough as battling the Steelers and Ravens in the AFC North.
There are no guarantees, but history would suggest that the Browns will get a boost from playing teams that won’t be around come January.
Reason No. 3: The Draft Will Go on as Scheduled
Tom Heckert needs to find more starters like Joe Haden
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Now we get to the talent. And the Browns need a lot.
General Manager Tom Heckert had a successful draft last year. He’ll have to find additional players this year, particularly since he won’t be able to rely on free agency (at least not right away).
However, this draft brings with it clarity. The words “on the same page” have been used to describe the type of offense and defense they want to run. The Browns have needs up and down the roster, but they know they’re drafting players who will fit their schemes for the long run.
Let’s be clear. The Browns will still need free agent help. But so will a lot of other teams. A work stoppage, and the new CBA that follows, may actually help the Browns, who have fewer prohibitive contracts than many teams.
The bottom line: A good draft will give the Browns a clear idea of who they need to target in free agency. And the Browns should have a lot of flexibility when the sprint to sign players begins.
Reason No. 4: Veteran Coaches Bring Wisdom to Young Players
Dick Jauron will be counted on to coach up a young defense
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The older I get, the more I see the wisdom of…well…wisdom.
Pat Shurmur’s coaching staff includes Dick Jauron and Ray Rhodes. These are two veteran coaches who were defensive back coaches during the last work stoppage in 1987.
That experience can’t be overstated. If the work stoppage lingers until, as some experts predict, August or even into September, there will be a great benefit in having experienced coaches who have seen everything and know how to get a team ready to play.
On the offensive side of the ball, Pat Shurmur will be calling his own plays, but it seems certain that Mike Holmgren and Gil Haskill will be playing a role behind the scenes.
This leads me to my last point …
Reason No. 5: The Leadership of Colt McCoy
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Anyone that’s been through an unsettled time at work knows the importance of leadership.
The longer the labor dispute drags on, and the uglier it gets, the more the Browns will be in need of a quarterback who can get the team to move past the bitterness and get focused on the job at hand.
In business they’re called “soft skills”, and they’re not as fun to talk about as whether or not McCoy has the arm strength to knife a football through a frigid afternoon on the lakefront.
But it’s precisely those skills, those “intangibles”, that the Cleveland Browns will need. And Colt McCoy left little doubt that he has an abundance of those skills.
More importantly, the front office and coaching staff have made it clear that McCoy is the starting quarterback. After two years of wondering from week to week who the quarterback would be, this is a breath of fresh air and a sign that the Browns may finally understand what it takes to win.