The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of one the greatest stretches, if not the greatest stretch, of futility the NFL has ever seen. After a 2014 season in which the Browns were a promising 7-4 midway through the season, the team dropped its final five games to finish 7-9.
If fans thought that was bad, what was to come was absolutely horrible. Between the 2015 and the 2017 seasons, the Browns won a total of four more games.
Three seasons, four wins.
If we narrow the scope a little bit further, the Browns have won just one game in the past two seasons. The Internet kindly mentioned to Cleveland sports fans that in the past two years there have been more Star Wars films released than the team has victories.
Will the Browns ever be good again? Will the team win a Super Bowl sometime before the end of the 21st century? Won’t football be gone by then anyway?
It really is impossible to tell. The major reason for the Browns’ futility comes down to one, simple reason: The Browns have yet to find a stable option at quarterback since their return to Cleveland in 1999.
The numbers speak for themselves. Between 1999 and the end of the 2017 season, the Browns have started 28 different players in the quarterback position. Only one time has a quarterback started all 16 games for the franchise in a season, and that was all the way back in 2001. In addition to the struggle to find any consistent talent at the position, the Browns have also been simply unlucky. The game has shifted to relying on the passing game more than at any other point in the history of the game, further compounding their dilemma.
There has been a precedent of recovering from this sort of futile position elsewhere in the NFL, however. That precedent comes from the Detroit Lions. After going 0-16 during the 2008 season, the Lions drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford from the University of Georgia, and he has been their leader ever since. While the Lions have not found significant postseason success, they have made the playoffs three teams since 2011 and have had a winning record in four of their past seven seasons. At this point, the Browns winning five games next season would be one of the greatest turnarounds in sports.
The Browns are in a prime position to make significant improvements to their team in the 2018 season. With a massive amount of cap space to sign any free agent to lucrative offers plus two of the first five picks in the draft, we should see some significant improvement for the Browns in 2018. On the other hand, though, no one will be holding their breath.