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Cleveland Browns Fans Finally Have Reason to Hope Again

September 6th, 2011 at 12:58 PM
By Chuck Chapman

Editor's Note: This is what we hope will be a regular feature on Bengals 101. Guest author Jared Luginbill joins us to provide some insight into the fan's perspective on this week's opponent, the Cleveland Browns. Jared's fandom goes back to the early 1980s growing up in Northwest Ohio, sharing his dad's affection for the Browns. He's endured "The Drive" and "The Fumble" and had his heart ripped out by Art Modell. For him it's been a long time since feeling optimistic about his football team.


It’s 2011, and for the first time since 1999 football fans in Cleveland have reason for long-term optimism. It appears that the media shy and deep pocketed owner of the Cleveland Browns Randy Lerner has finally put the management pieces in place needed to steer the Browns back to a place of respectability in the NFL.
After a tumultuous season ending in January of 2009, Randy Lerner made the decision to hire former Packers and Seahawks  coach Mike Holmgren as team president. After Holmgren was hired, he plucked away the Eagle’s VP of Player personnel Tom Heckert to serve as general manager of the Cleveland Browns. In his first two drafts for the Browns, Heckert has shown an ability to find talent not just early, but even some in the mid to late rounds. He has also shown the ability to acquire extra picks, which is crucial for a team in the middle of a major roster rebuild such as the Browns.
Despite retaining head coach Eric Mangini last season, the Browns decided to go a different direction following the 2010 season. This didn’t come as a great surprise as it became apparent that Holmgren sought to hire an offensive coach who could run his system and mentor young QB Colt McCoy. So in January the Browns hired long time NFL coach and former offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, Pat Shurmur. While it’s early, McCoy and Shurmur’s west coast offense seems to be a perfect marriage. McCoy’s accuracy and ability to move the pocket should allow him to flourish in a passing system that caters very much to those strengths.
From a roster standpoint the Browns have focused on going young. According to Holmgren over the last offseason the Browns have trimmed 331 years of age off of their roster. Along with this youth movement the Browns have shifted their focus from free agency to the draft. Instead looking to acquire players groomed in other systems, the philosophy is to draft and develop their own players and use the money under the salary cap to lock up those players. The shaping of the roster will continue, but it will very much be a work in progress for the next couple of seasons. The comfort Browns fan can take in this slower building approach is that it’s a formula that many teams have used with long term success.
A major concern for this team will be the obstacle of implementing a new offense and defense without the aid of OTA's and off season conditioning. This obstacle will be compounded by a larger learning curve due to the youth of the team.
Having management and coaches on the same page is a must in terms of long term viability. There needs to be cohesion and a confidence on both ends, that the system being used can be successful. Cleveland has most recently been a swinging door for coaches. Now Browns fan can finally look forward to watching an organization working in unison. Patience is all that’s needed.
Tags: Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Colt McCoy, Football, Mike Holmgren, NFL

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