Despite best start in over a decade, questions linger for the Browns

David Hoffman, Staff Reporter

The last time the Cleveland Browns notched a 3-2 record through their first five games, the year was 2001 and Tim Couch was the starting quarterback. When a team gets off to its best start in a dozen years, it would normally be cause for celebration and unbridled optimism. These Cleveland Browns are not your run-of-the-mill team.

They have already endured two changes of quarterback, both of which were necessitated by an injury to the incumbent starter. They have experienced an incredible high point and a demoralizing low point already this season: From Brian Hoyer leading the team to a come from behind victory in Minnesota to Hoyer being lost for the season during their Thursday night victory over Buffalo— you can already see a roller coaster ride beginning to take form this year. So, what will the future hold for the Browns?

An initial glance at the team’s upcoming schedule would be a good place to start forming an answer to that question. They have four games remaining until their scheduled bye week. Their opponents in those games include the Detroit Lions, the Green Bay Packers, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens. All four of those teams are also off to good starts early in the season and will have just as much to play for as the Browns, if not more. Keep in mind, too, that with Brian Hoyer no longer able to play this season, the team has been forced to turn back to Brandon Weeden to lead the offense.

The only difference this time around is that Josh Gordon is back on the field after serving a two game suspension to start the season. It should be noted that the Browns’ offense has improved noticeably since Gordon’s return, not to mention the fact that the team has won three straight games during that span.

The other main factor to consider is the competition the Browns will face as they look to remain in the thick of the playoff hunt. The AFC appears to be top heavy so far, with a few dominant teams separating themselves from the pack. The Browns, meanwhile, are currently lumped in with that inferior pack, as they are one of six teams in the conference sporting a 3-2 record. The other teams in that group include a few pleasant surprises and a couple of teams that most pundits expected to compete for a playoff berth.

Fortunately for the Browns, they share a common trait with the other teams in the AFC sporting the same record as them: An above average defense led by a ferocious front seven. However, they are far from a perfect team. The offense is not necessarily up to par with some of the other teams they’ll be competing with, and they still must deal with the stigma of simply being the Cleveland Browns.

Only winning games on a consistent basis can erase that stigma and change the fans’ perception of the franchise as one that is always destined to fail. Ultimately, the Browns have been one of the league’s pleasant surprises so far but still have a long road ahead of them this season.