Perhaps the most surprising thing about the 2012 Cleveland Browns is that they were far from surprising for most of the campaign. Literally every single Browns fan I spoke with before the season believed this team was incapable of finishing at .500 or better, and those same people also expected that head coach Pat Shurmur would be without a job come January 1, 2013. As the every-other-year tradition that is this franchise hitting the “reset” button gets under way, here’s one final look back at what was another season that wasn’t for the Browns.
2012 Cleveland Browns season review: The future is bright
Even the biggest critics of the 2011 Browns had to admit that Cleveland’s young defense showed plenty of promise (as long as Joe Haden was on the field). That team’s biggest problem was an offense that couldn’t locate the end zone with the help of maps or GPS. Building up that offense was a priority during an offseason that saw an influx of young hoped-to-be play-makers join the Browns, and there are several reasons to believe that Cleveland is now on the cusp of becoming a winner.
Injuries slowed Trent Richardson down a bit during his rookie season, but there is no question that he has the goods to dominate at the pro level for years to come. Greg Little deserves props for being the offense’s most improved player following a slow start that saw him struggle with the dropsies. Travis Benjamin is the Josh Cribbs of the future, and Josh Gordon could evolve into Cleveland’s most reliable wide receiver. Montario Hardesty and Jordan Cameron are two other guys to look out for in 2013. The process is going much slower than Cleveland fans would like, but the team does seem to be headed in the right direction.
2012 Cleveland Browns season review: Same old question
“Do the Cleveland Browns currently have a true NFL quarterback on the roster?” It’s a question that I feel has been asked every offseason since 1999, one that Cleveland fans are again asking themselves this January. Brandon Weeden very much so had a rookie season in 2012, which would be acceptable if he wasn’t turning 30-years old next fall. Weeden was supposed to be just about, if not completely, ready for the big show by this time. It may be a little over-polite to suggest that he has a ways to go before he’s capable of leading any NFL offense.
There’s a chance, of course, that a brilliant offensive mind could quickly turn Weeden into a good or even great quarterback. Just look at the job Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and company did with Matt McGloin. Whoever the team’s new head coach and GM will be will need to immediately address the QB issue, because this team cannot afford another season or two of finding out if Weeden is indeed the right guy.
2012 Cleveland Browns season review: Missing ingredient
The most frustrating thing about the 2012 Browns is that they truly were better than their 5-11 record would indicate. A side I labeled as the “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda Browns” back in September did what bad teams do, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, multiple times during the season, and it would be very easy to argue that they easily could have finished with an 8-8 record; at least. They have the talent, but now the Browns need to locate and hold onto a winning mentality that has been non-existent in the Cleveland locker room since 2007.
Maybe it is as easy as the Browns acquiring the right head coach who can instill belief that this team can compete with and beat the likes of Pittsburgh and Baltimore on a weekly basis. Perhaps they are just a couple of veteran players away from being “there.” I believe that the Browns finding the right person(s) who are able to bring a confident mindset to the team could make Cleveland a playoff contender as soon as next season. Don’t take my word on it. Just look at Seattle and Washington as examples.
2012 Cleveland Browns season review: Overall
Hope for the future is fine and all, but it doesn’t erase what was yet another losing season from the record books or the memory. I won’t bother analyzing the now former Cleveland head coach, mostly because the team’s record during his short tenure speaks for itself. That the Browns are better off now than when Pat Shurmur and Tom Heckert found them should not be ignored, but it’s now up to Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner to get this franchise over the hump sooner than later.