A CLEVELAND TRIFECTA? NO. BUT THERE'S—KINDA, SORTA—HOPE FOR THESE BROWNS
FRESH OFF a 3--13 record and their fifth straight last-place finish in the AFC North, the Browns will probably be even worse in 2016 given that the new Moneyball brain trust didn't re-sign any of their free agents. But here are five (little) reasons fans can have faith.
1 LOVE THAT GOLDEN HUE By hiring Hue Jackson (below) as their sixth coach in nine years, the Browns acquired one of the most innovative offensive minds in the game—as coordinator, he took the Bengals' scoring offense from 16th to fifth in one year—and that will surely make the Browns more interesting to watch. And considering Jackson's stable of friends in the media, he's likely to make strides in repairing the team's public image.
2 YOU GET RG3 2.0 Sure, things did not end on a high note in Washington for quarterback Robert Griffin III—either on the field (he lost his job to Kirk Cousins) or off it (he endured constant drama with his coaches). But Griffin (top, with a fan), now healthy and humbled, is still talented and has a coach adept at adapting to the strengths of his players. There's some promise there.
3 YOUNG BUILDING BLOCKS Veteran left tackle Joe Thomas, 31, remains the Browns' rock, but there's some younger talent too. Left guard Joel Bitonio, 24, is an emerging star on the offensive line. And Josh Gordon, 25, and 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman should be a dangerous pair—that is, if Gordon returns to form after serving a one-year suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
4 NO MORE JOHNNY DRAMA You no longer have to worry about whether or not your quarterback is AWOL in Vegas, wearing a disguise and asking to be called Billy, or riding an inflatable swan while downing booze out of the bottle. Johnny Manziel was released in March—a classic example of addition by subtraction.
5 THE OWNER COULD STILL BE INDICTED No one has been more responsible for the Browns' current state of woe than owner Jimmy Haslam, who has hired four coaches, four general managers and three team presidents/CEOs since buying the team in 2012. His company, Pilot Flying J, has been the subject of U.S. Department of Justice investigations over the past three years, with eight executives being indicted last February. Haslam's not yet in the clear. Maybe his removal, even if temporary, could give the Browns the stability they've lacked since he arrived?