While that seems fair, especially in sports, if we look a little closer, there might be better ways to gauge the team’s success. Ways that prove to be much more reliable indicators of just how far the Browns have come since 2009.
1) The Complexity of the Defense: Year Two in any defense, regardless of added personnel, should provide a great measure of how far the players have come and how good the coaching staff on this side of the ball is. The complexity of schemes, the coverage’s and the overall understanding of responsibilities of each player in the system should be visible to the most fair weather of fans.
Sacks and opportunities for interceptions should be up; yardage from scrimmage should be down. Most importantly, the players should look fluid and in control. Confusion should not exist and there should be a high level of trust between the staff and players. Two players to keep our eyes on here are Eric Wright and Abe Elam. Their play can tell us a lot about just how far this defense has come.
2) Ball Movement on Offense: Scoring is the goal. But, sustaining drives and execution of plays within the offense are key indicators of the growth of the team. However, what I am talking about here is much different from the Romeo Crennel era where field goals were the norm. No.
What I am talking about is the ability to eat up the clock, run the ball and keep the chains moving at times when it might seem impossible. Evidence will be found on the fourth, fifth and sixth drives. It will be seen when the other team’s defense think they have us against the wall and we still run off ten minutes from the clock and fifty plus yards, putting pressure on the their defense and giving our defense a rest.
Daboll’s offense will have come a long way when this is a consistent part of the Browns identity and would show us a great deal of the maturation of this program. Our ability to block and open holes will be a key indicator here.
3) Final Drive on Offense or Defense: Here is the kicker. When the game clock is winding down; when our guys are either driving on offense or making a last stand on defense, what do those final possessions mean? Are we on offense driving down for the win? Are we on defense holding on to a victory?
These moments will say a lot more about our team in 2010 than the actual final score. It will let us know if we are competing. It’s been too long since we have. As fans we all want to see the Browns beat the Cowboys or Ravens, but win or lose, are we competing against them?
Are these the kind of games that we can feel justified owning a ticket for? If we can answer yes, that we fought hard, that we pulled it out or maybe came up just a bit short, in 2010 we should be able to live with that. When that is the case, week in and week out, we’ll know the decisions being made by the organization are correct. The ship has been righted. Our time and theirs has been spent positively.
Fortunately, this will be easy to know, as the spin doctors in the media and blogosphere will let us know how far we’ve come in this area. Their slant on the news will go a long way towards defining how this team is perceived.
Wins and losses are great. We all want the Cleveland Browns to hold up that Super Bowl trophy in victory. But this year, 2010, if we can play a style of defense that stifles our opponent with its complexity, move the ball on offense after the other team has figured us out and arrive at the end of each game with our destiny in our hands, than we have taken the next step towards becoming a relevant franchise.
The Browns organization has fought for that, and the fans deserve it. So, when the coming year is all over, I hope we don’t judge our team by wins and losses but by things that with time mean so much more.