Cleveland Browns: How the Cleveland Browns Can Gauge Success in 2012

Mike Hoag@MikeHoagJrCorrespondent IIJune 11, 2012

BEREA, OH - MAY 12: Linebacker James-Michael Johnson #50 of the Cleveland Browns runs drills during the second day of minicamp at Cleveland Browns training facility on May 12, 2012 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

A playoff berth is the best metric of gauging the success of the 2012 Cleveland Browns.

For too many years, the status quo of linear improvement and playing tough have been used for beacons of hope.

2012 is the third season of Mike Holmgren’s reign as team president. General manager Tom Heckert has had three full drafts and free-agency periods to augment and build a competitive unit. Head coach Pat Shurmur is not a rookie any longer. He will have had a full offseason to prepare his troops for 16 battles that will test their resolve and commitment.

This year, the Browns need to pull out all the stops.

There's a lot to be optimistic about as training camp approaches. For starters, there's no shortened offseason.

The West Coast Offense will be fully installed.

A mature, strong-armed quarterback will be on the field leading the charge.

The best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson will be punishing opposing defenses and grinding out yards between the tackles.

The Browns’ top-10 defense returns with added depth across the board.

Browns’ safety T.J. Ward said there's a good, different vibe in the locker room that wasn't there in 2011.

With exception to Phil Taylor’s pectoral injury, there have been no devastating injuries YET.

Why then, at this point, would measuring the success of the Browns by expecting a playoff berth be that far out of the question? I’d pose that it’s not out of the question.

However, entering the playoff discussion cannot happen unless the Browns can win against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. That, though, is easier said than done.

For years, Browns fans have been waiting for the right time when talent and opportunity meet. This year, aging Steelers and Ravens defenses may be primed to fall. Have the Browns added enough firepower to exploit this potential fall-off in the division?

Can Brandon Weeden drastically improve the potency of the aerial attack? Will he make those around him better with his leadership and strong downfield delivery?

Weeden is the key. Everything is riding on the 28-year old rookie.

Is it playoffs or bust for the Cleveland Browns in 2012?

A season ago, the Cincinnati Bengals rode a stout defense, a rookie quarterback and a rookie No. 1 wide receiver to the playoffs.

Why is it so crazy to think the Browns can’t do the same this year?

It's not crazy.

No more excuses. Let's see some real Browns football this year.

Follow Mike on Twitter @BigHoagowski


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