It’s been a rough decade and change for this version of the Cleveland Browns.
After a three-year hiatus per say with the original franchise relocating to Baltimore and becoming the Ravens, the team is a combined 68-140 since “returning” to the NFL in 1999, producing just a pair of winning seasons (9-7 in 2002 and 10-6 in ’07) and one playoff berth (’02). And since that aforementioned 10-win season, the Browns are 18-46 since 2008--losing 11 or more games 4 consecutive years.
Of course, when you reside in a division where a season ago every team went to the playoffs with the exception of yourself and it’s hard to make headway. Cleveland was a “perfect” 0-6 vs. the Ravens, Steelers and Bengals in 2011 and has lost 10 straight games to AFC North rivals dating back to ’10. Since 2002, the Browns have had 5 head coaches, while the remainder of the division has employed a combined 6 sideline leaders.
As of this moment, there’s one thing the Browns have more of than any other team in the league, much less their division, and that’s selections in the 2012 Draft. The franchise owns an NFL high 13 picks as we approach April 26, including a pair in the first and third rounds, and must make the most of the opportunity to fortify their talent.
By the way, it’s also worth noting that the rest of the teams in the division aren’t exactly hurting when it comes to selections themselves. The Steelers have 10 picks, the Bengals 9 and the defending AFC North champion Ravens 8. That means 40 of the 253 overall selections (again, as we speak) will come from arguably the conference’s (or league’s) best division in 2011.
From all indications, the Browns’ biggest needs lie on the offensive side of the football. Led by Dick Jauron, the team played respectable football defensively. But the inability to generate points on a consistent basis has actually been a big issue in recent seasons and once again reared its head during head coach Pat Shurmur’s first year at the helm. The speculation is that the team could opt for a quarterback, running back or wide receiver, with many forecasting the club grabbing Alabama RB Trent Richardson with the fourth overall slection.
But no matter who they opt for, this is an important offseason for the franchise. Again, making strides in the AFC North isn’t easy these days and the franchise doesn’t necessarily need to select 13 players. But they need to add some impact performers on both sides of the football if they are to start to make a move in the division.
So what should we expect from the Browns come late April and eventually, in September? Let the guessing game(s) begin…