Predicting team records in July and August is useless. Nevertheless, every Harry, Dick and Tom wants to give you his 2 cents on what will occur in the upcoming season. Most “experts” outside of northeast Ohio are predicting another abysmal season for the Browns. For instance, CBS Columnist Pete Prisco predicted a record of 1-15. His colleague Jason LaCanfora was kind in comparison with his prediction of a 4-12 or 5-11 record. Local “experts” are significantly more optimistic (Mary Kay Cabot’s prediction in last Friday’s Starting Blocks was a record in the range of 6-10 to 8-8).
Optimistic – to be or not to be?
Every fan wants its team to do well and Browns fans are no different. After taking a beating in 2011 and adding some new pieces of the offensive puzzle, we want to hear that the Browns have finally found a what it takes to be respectful. Although there is no talk of making the playoffs, there is a huge difference in being 1-15 or 8-8. So, who is right? Pete Prisco and his 1-15 prediction or Mary Kay Cabot and her 8-8 guess?
First of all, every time I read an article from the national media, I force myself to think back to the 2007-2008 offseason. In 2007, the Browns did well on offense and the national media took notice. That team included Derek Anderson at QB with Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Joe Jurevicius as his targets. Jamal Lewis’ first year with the Browns was deemed a success. Following the season, then GM Phil savage added speedy Donte Stallworth to its receiving corps. The national and the local media bought the hype and predicted another explosive year.
We all know what happened in 2008. Derek Anderson had issues with his accuracy, Braylon Edwards had issues with his drops, Donte Stallworth was either injured or ineffective and Jamal Lewis unveiled an enhanced version of his signature stutter-step move. Did these issues arise from nowhere? Were the national and local media wrong in their predictions or was this as foreseeable as the ending of an Adam Sandler movie?
The truth is that Derek Anderson always had accuracy issues, even in 2007 when the offense, generally speaking, performed well. Braylon Edwards had issues with drops in college and they never fully disappeared as he entered the NFL. Donte Stallworth never lived up to his first round draft selection in 2002 and managed only one above-average season as a member of the Patriots, the ultimate plug-and-play team. Jamal Lewis was allowed to leave the Ravens (guided by Ozzie Newsome, one of the top talent evaluators in the NFL) due to his ineffectiveness and displayed some hesitation even during his bounce-back season in 2007. In conclusion, the 2008 collapse wasn’t necessarily crystal clear, but it was definitely foreseeable. Yet, no writer predicted it.
This brings me back to the early 2012 media predictions. They are utterly useless. The national media is placing way too much emphasis on the failed 2011 season. The local media seems more optimistic but nobody is capable of pointing out specific reasons for doing so (because it does not exist). The truth of the matter is that nobody knows because so many of the key pieces are rookies with zero NFL experience.
Here is how I see it. We will have some insight after a few preseason games. At that time, we will know if Weeden can play QB at the NFL level. Granted, we won’t know how well he can play QB at the NFL level, but we will at least know if he can play at all. (Just for clarification purposes – Colt McCoy can play QB at the NFL level, but not at a level sufficient to compensate for other weaknesses of the rest of the team.) After the first two to three weeks of the regular season, we will be able to tell even more about the team and more importantly, QB Brandon Weeden. At that time, we can start making predictions for the rest of the 2012 season.