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Fixing The Browns In Five Easy Steps

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Finding a quarterback - be it Brandon Weeden or someone else - has to be the top priority for the Browns in 2013. Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Finding a quarterback - be it Brandon Weeden or someone else - has to be the top priority for the Browns in 2013. Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

There was a commercial on the radio the other day about a product that rejuvenates a car’s air conditioning system in just 10 minutes, even if you don’t know the difference between a screwdriver – the tool – and a screwdriver – the mixed drink.

Whoa! How about that? What a country! There’s a way to fix about anything these days and a lot of times, it’s pretty simple. And so it is with football teams. There are ways they can be fixed as well and, often times, it’s easier than one might think. There are no perfect teams, so every club needs at least one thing repaired. Most need a series of repairs while some require a major overhaul.

But with enough time, money, perseverance and intelligence, just about every team – even the ones at the bottom of the food chain for a long time – can be remade to look as good as new.

Understanding that, we’re going to work on the Cleveland Browns, whose engine has not run smoothly since 2007 – their last winning season. In the last five years, there has been a considerable amount of sputtering.

Here’s how to fix the Browns in five easy steps:

1. Throw everything else aside – The next four items on this to-do list pale in comparison to this one. It is – by far – the most important task. Call it “Job 1”. In fact, if Cleveland does nothing else in 2013 other than accomplishing this project, then it will be not just a good season, but a fantastic one. So what are we talking about? Find a quarterback. That’s what this season is all about, whether Brandon Weeden is the man or whether the team needs to look elsewhere. Once a team finds its quarterback, a lot of the other problems also go away. It’s like getting a new engine or a new set of tires. It makes everybody else – and everything else – better.

2. hange all the changing – The Browns have changed coaches, general managers and team presidents in this expansion era almost as often as some people change socks. To have any chance to be successful, Cleveland has to resist making any more major changes – even if there’s – This is an offshoot of the previous fix. Offensively and defensively, Cleveland has changed its schemes and changed them again, sometimes on a yearly basis. Run. Pass. Be Physical. Use finesse. Rush the passer. Don’t rush the passer. Stop the madness! It sounds as if the 2013 Browns want to be fast and attacking on both sides of the ball. Good, that’s the way to play. It runs contrary to common sense to tell athletes not to be athletic, to instead be passive in some way, shape or form. Now the club must stick with those schemes for the long haul.

3. Identify that it’s an identity crisis – This is an offshoot of the previous fix. Offensively and defensively, Cleveland has changed its schemes and changed them again, sometimes on a yearly basis. Run. Pass. Be Physical. Use finesse. Rush the passer. Don’t rush the passer. Stop the madness! It sounds as if the 2013 Browns want to be fast and attacking on both sides of the ball. Good, that’s the way to play. It runs contrary to common sense to tell athletes not to be athletic, to instead be passive in some way, shape or form. Now the club must stick with those schemes for the long haul.

4. Behave yourself – When teams evaluate a talented player with character issues in preparation for either the NFL Draft or free agency, there is a great temptation to focus on the positives and forget the negatives. Teams think they all have the magic elixir to solve the character problems, thus enabling them to reap the benefits of that ability. They think incorrectly in most cases.

There are exceptions to the rule, but in nearly every instance, it’s a matter of a tiger not changing his stripes. If a player is a bad person, then he’s simply a bad person and likely won’t ever change. Drafting him and signing him is like throwing a bunch of money into a stiff breeze..

Former coach Butch Davis thought he could rehabilitate DT Gerald Warren and RB William Green, talented players who were troubled souls. So he drafted them in the first round in 2001 and 2002, respectively. It ended badly. The Browns turned back the clock the last two offseasons by drafting WR Josh Gordon in 2012 and signing DL Desmond Bryant in free agency this year. They knew at the time that those two had issues, but they went out and added them anyway. Gordon might be just one misstep away from a major suspension while Bryant’s unflattering mug shop went viral.

Maybe Gordon – who took a banned substance and will sit out the first two games with an NFL-imposed suspension – and Bryant – who had a run-in with a neighbor – can clean up their acts and get on the straight and narrow. Ditto for free-agent LB Quentin Groves, who was arrested on prostitution charges. Those kinds of transformations can and do happen. Counting on the changes is a mistake.

As a former Cleveland coach once said, “It’s tough enough to figure out if a player, especially a kid coming out of college, has what it takes to make it in the NFL. He’s never spent a day in the league. The chance of him becoming an impact player is really pretty small. I can’t reduce that chance down almost to nothing by knowingly drafting – or signing – a player who has character issues. I have neither the time nor the inclination to read the police blotter in the morning newspaper to know if my right guard will be at practice today or if he’s in jail after getting into a fight at a bar.”

The Browns need to shy away from the bad apples and gravitate toward the players with good character, even if their talent levels aren’t as good. You can count on those guys in the pinch. You know where they’ve been all week. The other guys can get a coach fired.

Cleveland must behave itself, fight the urge to go to the dark side and remember that character matters.

5. Plan ahead – Any number of times during Pat Shurmur’s head-coaching stint the last two seasons, the Browns would come out with a great game plan and make plays. Then when the opponents adjusted, Shurmur’s staff never adjusted back. As a result, Cleveland lost momentum…and games.

NFL games are chess matches filled with moves and counter-moves. This year, the Browns need to figure out what counter moves are. If they don’t, then they’ll get stuck in the same losing rut.