Cleveland Browns NFL

Cleveland Browns: Have They Hit Rock Bottom?

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Eight sacks, another concussed quarterback and another disheartening home loss to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes. the Cleveland Browns have officially hit rock bottom.

In what has become an unofficial extra home game for the visiting Steelers, thanks to the abundance of black-and-gold wearing Terrible Towels in the stands of First Energy Stadium, California-born rookie quarterback Cody Kessler got his first bitter taste of AFC North football in November, as he was sacked four times–Josh McCown would also get sacked four times–battered and bruised constantly by Pittsburgh’s blitz-happy defense in a 24-9 loss.

The loss, Cleveland’s 11th straight, is the worst start in the once-proud and storied franchise’s 70-year history.

With five games–and a merciful bye–coming up soon, one has to wonder if the hapless Browns have indeed set a new low in hitting rock bottom?

What was once a promising young squad led by the energetic Hue Jackson, has devolved into a band of misfits who appear to have quit on the season, and are going thru the motions.

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The fore-mentioned Kessler, who I think the Browns should still try to develop as a possible starter for 2017 and beyond, completed 7-of-14 passes for a mere 128 yards and one interception, looked like a frightened young deer running from a hungry pack of wolves in the form of the Steelers.

Hell, you could stick Otto Graham and Bernie Kosar behind this line, and they’d get killed. But then that would be considered cruel and unusual punishment by today’s standards.

While young talent such as Corey Coleman, Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge provided some spark on offense, it was once again that orange-colored human sieve of an offensive line that has gotten quarterback after quarterback AFTER quarterback killed this season.

Hopefully, the nerds in the Browns front office rectify this in the draft—bye bye Cameron Irving! Hello Mr. Cam Robinson from Alabama, Pat Elflein from THE Ohio State University or Dan Feeney from Indiana—and free agency, as fixing the offensive line will rectify the constant parade of defenders sacking Cleveland quarterbacks.

While some fans think that drafting another QB in the first round may solve some issues, putting the likes of former Mentor High standout–and rapidly-rising in mock drafts–North Carolina junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky, former Toledo Central Catholic–and current Notre Dame Fighting Irish star DeShone Kizer and Clemson signal-caller, Deshaun Watson would survive behind the two-legged turnstile that is Cleveland’s offensive line.

Now about that “defense”

Where do I start, maybe I can start in the fact that it got gashed once again by long-time tormentor in Findlay-born two-time Super bowl champion in Ben Roethlisberger improving to 21-2 vs Cleveland in his career, and providing ANOTHER reminder of past drafts blown and what could have been—here’s looking at you, Kellen Winslow!

It was the perennial sight of seeing another opposing running backs treat the so-called revamped Cleveland defensive line like a bunch of orange-and-brown ushers in allowing Le’Veon Bell to rush for 146 yards and one touchdown.

Where Cleveland has truly hit rock bottom is the obvious lack of urgency and self-discipline highlighted by the Browns committing back-to-back penalties for defensive holding and pass interference or defensive backs Joe Haden and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, which gave Pittsburgh two free untimed downs at the end of the first half, which culminated in Bell’s eventual touchdown run and Pittsburgh’s successful two-point conversion resulting in a 14-0 lead at halftime.

It is mental errors like that, that can break a team, and ultimately shake it’s confidence. It is performances like the one on Sunday that enables teams to treat the Browns like it was a casual afternoon chore.

If that wasn’t bad enough in seeing your team blow through draft picks, multiple front office personnel, coaches and 20-plus quarterbacks, then how much further will Cleveland have to go before they truly hit rock bottom.

At 0-11, with a battered, shaken and confused rookie quarterback, a suspect offensive line, an even worse defensive line and a team stuck on the skids in the midst of a 14-game losing streak dating back to last season, 4-30 since November of 2014 and has just six wins over its hated Rust Belt rival from the Steel City since 1999, I shudder as to what rock bottom from Cleveland looks like, because it can’t get any worse.

Or can it? Only in Cleveland.

 

Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com