Very few people, if any, thought the Cleveland Browns would contend for a playoff spot this year – or even finish with a winning record. But at 0-9, the Browns have failed to meet even the lowest of expectations.
“It’s brutal right now,” former Browns general manager Phil Savage said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “They are basically hitting rock bottom, but we don’t know where the bottom is yet because they’re 0-9. You look at the schedule and you wonder, ‘Is there a game out there they can win?’”
Cleveland, which has lost four games by six points or fewer, will face the Ravens (4-4) in Baltimore this Thursday at 8:25 p.m. ET.
Short week, divisional opponent, solid defense. Yup, 0-10 seems likely.
What has been the problem in Cleveland?
“I was at their training camp in August, and I thought they had made the right move with Hue Jackson because they made him the one voice of the team,” Savage said. “In other words, you’re not hearing much from the owner, you’re not hearing from coordinators or the GM as much. It’s more or less a one-voice team. So I think that’s probably a positive. The biggest challenge there – and I spent four years of my life (in Cleveland). Those were like dog years. Those were like 28 years in Cleveland when I was there. But the biggest issue there is that because you’ve had so many different regimes, everything seems splintered – the fans, the media, the organization itself. And to pull everybody together and get pointed in one direction where there’s a true belief in the coach, in the quarterback, in the scouting philosophy – it’s really, really a challenge. It is so difficult. I can’t describe how hard that is. And the only way to get it turned is to win.”
Easier said than done. The Browns have finished with a winning record just twice since 1999 and just once since 2002.
“It’s really tough to go through the briar patch of losing and hold everybody together and just say, ‘Let’s clench our teeth, hang in there, we’re going to be okay,’” said Savage, who was the Browns’ GM from 2005-08. “To me, the Browns don’t really have any other options other than staying true to this choice that they made, which is they were going to go heavy analytics and Hue Jackson. It’s all about Hue and analytics, in my mind. They need to stick with that for at least several years. That’s been the biggest issue there: They’ve never really stuck with any regime longer than two or three years. Four years seems like an eternity based on what the Browns have been through over the last decade or so.”