Cleveland Browns: 5 highlights since the team’s last victory

Dec 13, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) throws a pass during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It has been over one year since the Cleveland Browns have won a game, and all the positives since then have been moves that came off the field.

While yesterday’s news surrounding the Cleveland Browns focused on the team’s 2017 game in London, fans may have missed out on an important anniversary.

Yesterday was the one-year mark since the Browns last won a game. December 13, 2015 saw the Browns pick up a victory over the San Francisco 49ers, the same team the Browns are currently fighting with for the number one pick in the 2017 Draft. The term “fighting” may give too much credit to the effort of both teams.

The team was led by Johnny Manziel back then, which seems like ages ago based on the amount of quarterbacks to play for the Browns in 2016.

The fact the win came over the 49ers is nothing to celebrate, but fans would certainly take any type of win this season. At least a single win would give fans something to be happy about, yet the team has not even been able to do that with only three games remaining.

Much of what made fans happy in 2016 came in the offseason, at a time when optimism reigns supreme for Browns fans on an annual basis.

The lack of a victory has Browns fans grasping for something to be happy about, so let’s look at five things that happened in 2016 that gave fans hope for a brighter future. Unfortunately, none of these happened during the actual season.

Jul 30, 2015; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns general manager Ray Farmer, Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine and owner Jimmy Haslam during training camp at the Cleveland Browns practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Two years is not a long time to get much done, but it is an eternity when one works for the Browns.

Both Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer were fired as soon as the 2015 season came to an end, signaling the start of yet another era in Browns football.

Thanks to Farmer, Pettine was never given much to work with. The coach was let down by the general manager, who made some baffling decisions in his two seasons in charge.

The first misstep came by drafting both Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, just two years after another front office group took Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden in the first round. It continued an absurd trend of missing on top picks that has plagued this franchise since 1999.

One may say it is unfair to use hindsight to say it was obvious the picks were bad, but it was indeed obvious the picks were bad. Maybe Gilbert just let the team down with a bad work ethic, but Manziel was clearly a college star that wouldn’t pan out in the NFL. Add in his persona and celebrity lifestyle and you have him getting paid in 2016 to sit at home and not associate himself with the team.

Farmer’s next move was sinking millions into a contract with Dwayne Bowe, who was openly benched by Pettine for much of the season. Unless Bowe had some dirt on Farmer or Jimmy Haslam, the move made zero sense and Pettine illustrated his pleasure by letting Bowe sit on the sidelines.

A 7-9 record in 2014 may have given fans some hope of a positive future, but the late-season collapse coupled with a 3-13 record in 2015 doomed both Farmer and Pettine. Their firings allowed yet another group to get a shot to make the Browns great again.

Jan 13, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns new head coach Hue Jackson (left) and Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown talk during a press conference at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Fans were delighted when the Browns landed Hue Jackson to be the new head coach of the franchise. After a string of questionable or seemingly unqualified hires, Jackson gave the team a legitimate leader.

Jackson came to the team with a new front office, led by Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta, the latter making a name for himself in the MLB. The move seemed unconventional, yet fans were at least excited that Haslam was trying to actively turnaround his team.

The success of this new group has yet to show itself in the form of wins, but the idea of a rebuild was the plan all along. Knowing if the excitement related to their hirings was valid will not be known until at least 2018, when the team should be showing it in the form of wins. If not, well, the process will start over again from the beginning.

The good news is that the group is not going to get fired after one season, unless Haslam loses his mind and makes a change. The problem is that any major changes may cause some fans to ditch the team altogether.

Dec 27, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) signals on the line of scrimmage during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Hue Jackson inherited a roster that still saw Johnny Manziel listed at the quarterback position. And after failing second, third and fourth chances under Mike Pettine, it was clear the young quarterback had no spot on this new team.

The Browns let him hang around for a few months, ultimately cutting him in March and adding Robert Griffin III to the roster. Griffin hasn’t done much so far, but at least he can handle the stardom that comes with being an NFL player.

Manziel clearly has demons so it is wrong to bash and criticize him too much, but the Browns did not have any more time to deal with his issues. Cutting him was a sign that character will be valued just as much as skill, which is a basic step in building a football team that can mesh together for more than one season.

Manziel’s claim to fame is that as of now, he remains the last Browns quarterback to lead the team to a win. It is an embarrassing mark for the franchise, but one more win will help the team move on from any mentions of Johnny Football.

Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Corey Coleman (Baylor) is selected by the Cleveland Browns as the number fifteen overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Corey Coleman (Baylor) is selected by the Cleveland Browns as the number fifteen overall pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at Auditorium Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The conversation surrounding the Browns all offseason was whether the team was going to select Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. Once the Rams traded up to the number one spot to take Goff, Wentz seemed like the likely option to take his turn to start for the Browns.

But the front office had no plans of selecting either, instead opting to trade down to acquire more picks in 2016 and the future.

The trade seemed smart at the time, and still looks great given the fact the Browns acquired the Eagles’ 2017 first-round pick, which is likely going to be a top-10 pick. And while Carson Wentz had a hot start, his season has leveled out. It would also be hard to imagine him having any success on this Browns team, let alone be able to stay healthy.

The first pick was ultimately used on Corey Coleman, who has shown flashes of potential this season. He had a broken hand that ruined his momentum following a great Week 2 performance, and has had to try to gel with a new quarterback seemingly every week.

While the focus is on Coleman as he is a first-round pick, the front office will be judged on how their drafted players do as a group. It is alright to miss on a few high picks if stars can be found in the lower rounds. 2017 will be another chance to use the acquired picks and build a contender in Cleveland.

Oct 30, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson watches warmups before a game against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 30, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson watches warmups before a game against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

It is hard to think of anything else that has gotten fans excited in 2016.

The only on-field excitement came in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens when Josh McCown had the Browns up 20-0 in the first quarter. But a blocked extra-point returned for two points seemed to signal doom for the Browns. A 25-20 final in favor of the Ravens confirmed that fear.

The play of Terrelle Pryor has been another positive, although he is having a tough time keeping his emotions in check.

Then there is the play of some of the drafted rookies. Derrick Kindred, Carl Nassib, and Emmanuel Ogbah have all stood out, while undrafted Briean Boddy-Calhoun has secured his spot as a member of the team in 2017.

There really hasn’t been much else to cheer about. The lack of a win sours any success seen by individuals on the field, while the whole point of watching the games is to see if the team will do the unthinkable and go 0-16.

It is hard to believe it has been over a year since the team has won a game, considering the Cavaliers have won a championship and the Indians nearly won it all in 2016. Yet the Browns are still searching for a single victory, and if it comes, fans will rejoice. There just won’t be any long-lasting excitement.

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