The 2009 Cleveland Browns were desperate for more wins heading into the final weeks of the season. Between their two starting quarterbacks, Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, the Browns threw 17 interceptions and only 11 touchdowns. Fighting for his job, Eric Mangini needed to see some victories, and that meant one thing.
Run the football.
The Browns began their season with veteran Jamal Lewis as the starting running back, but he was placed on IR earlier in the season. So if the Browns wanted to run the football they were going to have to rely on some unproven players.
The top choices were undersized Jerome Harrison and ex-CFL player Chris Jennings. The Browns also relied on Josh Cribbs running the Wildcat package.
In week 14, the Pittsburgh Steelers were coming to town and the new running back-by-committee was going to be put to the test. Chris Jennings, who is a much bigger back then Harrison at 5'10 and 219 lbs, got the bulk of the carries. He came up with 73 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in a Cleveland win.
The Browns followed that win with three more, but instead of Jennings at the helm it was Harrison.
Once Harrison was given the starting spot, he never looked back. In the Browns last three games—all wins—Harrison rushed for 561 yards and five touchdowns.
A Browns team that had been lacking an identity since their return to the league in 1999 had finally found what it takes to win under Mangini. But even with the late surge it was apparent that changes in the front office were needed.
Browns fans cheered everywhere when Mike Holmgren was hired as the team's president. Holmgren went on to hire Tom Heckert as the GM, and even though both said the team would need to be able to pass the ball they both acknowledged that running the ball was the Browns' strong suit.
In a trade with quarterback the Denver Broncos in which they gave up Quinn, the Browns were rewarded with running back Peyton Hillis, among other things. The Browns continued to add to the pile of talent in the backfield when they drafted Montario Hardesty in the second round from the University of Tennessee.
The three backs who, if healthy, will see the most time in the upcoming season are: Harrison, who is a smaller scat back, Hardesty, an all-around back who stands 6'0" tall and weighs 220 lbs, and Hillis, who will play the role of the bruiser back.
Also fighting for a roster spot are Chris Jennings and James Davis.
When defenses are preparing to play the Browns, they might not have to try and stop an explosive passing attack. They will certainly have to find a way to contain all of Cleveland's talented backs along with preparing for an improved Wildcat package that features Cribbs and Seneca Wallace.
The Browns found an identity last year with smash-mouth football. With even more talent at tailback, that should only be more apparent this season.