Culture of Hoops

Are the Cleveland Browns the Worst Team in the NFL?

Image courtesy of Erik Daniel Drost/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Erik Daniel Drost/Flickr.

Consistently rooting for a bad team is like eating at Burger King every single day when you have terrible acid reflux. Sure, the pain is unbearable, but you get used to it after a few years.

Even though the Cleveland Browns came into the season with the ninth-toughest schedule in the NFL, I thought there was hope. The first three games featured the likes of the New York Jets, the Tennessee Titans, and the Oakland Raiders.

The Jets made the Browns look like a high school team, Marcus Mariota had a perfect QB-rating in his NFL debut, but the Raiders are still the Raiders.

So what could have been a 3-0 start now looks like a 1-2 best-case scenario.

The bias is inherent because I have no way to look at the Browns from an outsider’s point of view. I discussed this with a friend as we watched the Browns’ defense fail to stop the run for a painful four quarters of football. I brought up the fact that people outside of Cleveland see Johnny Manziel is playing and laugh, while we get excited. I shake my head at the way the Raiders play, yet still think the Browns could make the playoffs. I know, it’s a condition that may require medical attention.

Let’s just look at the Jets game to start. The title of this post could be an overreaction, but the first game of the season looked as if the Browns had not prepared to play a competitive football game all off-season.

But the game did not start so bad. The Browns began on offense on their own 9-yard line, and Josh McCown marched them down the field all the way to the Jets’ 14-yard line. Then he forgot who he was. McCown ran toward the end zone and attempted to dive over defenders much larger than he is and fumbled the ball. And got a concussion. On the first drive of the season.

Enter Johnny Manziel. A collective laugh from the nation erupted, so naturally he threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to put the Browns up 7-0.

On the next drive, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception to Tashaun Gipson…who was promptly stripped by Brandon Marshall. Two plays later the game is tied at 7-7. The final score was 31-10.

The game was embarrassing even in Cleveland standards. The team combined for 12 penalties that resulted in 109 total yards. The Jets had four for 30 yards.

The surprising part of the game was that Manziel was not the one to blame. He fumbled twice in the second half, but he had no protection at all, and even ended up as the team’s leading rusher with 35 yards. Josh McCown came in second with 23 yards. The three running backs combined for a total of 48 yards on 20 carries. No NFL team should have such a poor rushing performance after having an entire offseason to prepare for one game. It is unacceptable to the point where this upcoming game against the Titans is far more important than any Week 2 game should ever be. Another awful game could be disastrous for the employment of Mike Pettine.

I am not advocating firing Pettine so early in the season, or firing him at all this season, but playing at such a low level usually sees the coach end up as the fall guy.

The hope of the season may lie in the hands of Johnny Football Manziel. At this point, playing Manziel makes sense. A first-round pick was used on him, so finding out if he can play is better than having him sit on the bench while the team plays poorly. He also has to play because Josh McCown is concussed, but with the way he plays I don’t see him lasting long even if he comes back.

As for if the Browns are the worst team in the NFL, there is only one way to find out. If they lose again this week, the Week 3 matchup against the Raiders will be for that bottom spot on the power rankings.

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