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Published: Monday, 8/26/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

COMMENTARY

Don’t panic, it’s only the preseason

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

In the minds of fans and, sometimes, the media too, a team is only as good as its last game.

That’s why there was a growl of discontent when the Detroit Lions opened the preseason 1-1 with a so-so win over the New York Jets’ traveling circus and a loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Then the Lions, led by the dazzling Reggie Bush, just whooped up on the New England Patriots and fans started wondering where this season’s Super Bowl will be played. (Answer: New York City/​New Jersey. You might want your favorite team to wait a year for a warmer destination.)

Anyway, settle down. Preseason football means absolutely nothing. Lions’ fans should know that better than most. Remember a few years back when a 4-0 preseason crumbled into that 0-16 regular season?

Browns’ fans should know it better than most because, well, just because.

It doesn’t take much to excite a Cleveland fan — a 2-0 start was plenty — but all is back to normal after the Browns took a step backward in a 27-6 loss at Indianapolis on Saturday.

Brandon Weeden is back to the being the quarterback with no upside, completing less than half of his attempts and missing a couple open targets.

Greg Little is fumble-prone; Josh Gordon is drop-prone.

Trent Richardson is the whole rushing game, if not the whole offense.

Nine penalties, self-destructive tendencies, sloppy … it’s the same old, same old.

“We had a turnover, some penalties, mental mistakes in some critical situations that hurt us or hurt our drive opportunities and also extended some drives for [fill in any opponent],” the Browns’ coach said afterwards.

It was Rob Chudzinski saying it this time, but it could have been just about any Cleveland coach in the past 15 years.

If the third preseason game is indeed the window to Week 1, then the Browns aren’t ready. Etc. Etc.

Relax. Take a deep breath. It’s preseason football.

And what exactly do you expect from the Browns?

Sure, the NFL is built on parity which, by design, allows bad teams to rebuild and reboot in short time frames. Cleveland has long struggled with that concept.

Consider this: The Browns are 73-151 since their second coming at the start of the 1999 season.

Then consider this: Between playoff appearances in 1990 and 2005, the Cincinnati Bengals were 71-153.

The Bengals have made the playoffs three of the past four seasons and are something of a trendy pick to rule the AFC North this season.

So it can be done.

Teams just need to be smart at draft time, aggressive in free agency, and patient.

It doesn’t always happen overnight, though, and patience is not always a virtue.

It was in Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis was three games under .500 through six seasons and the Bengals stuck with him. Entering his 11th year, Lewis is now the second longest tenured coach in the league after Bill Belichick of the Patriots.

We don’t know what kind of head coach Chudzinski will prove to be but, with coordinator Norv Turner in tow, Chud figures to have the offensive acumen to reverse the Browns’ fortunes.

Neither of his two immediate predecessors, Pat Shurmur or Eric Mangini, both caught in the squeeze of new front office regimes, got longer than two seasons to get it done.

What should Browns’ fans hope to see in 2013? Consistent improvement.

As hard as it may be to summon, this calls for patience.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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