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The State of the Browns: 2016 Off-Season Edition

With training camp officially underway, Last Word on Sports will be examining the current state of the Browns heading into the 2016 season.

Welcome to the State of the Browns Address. With it only being the preseason, the state of the Browns is obviously strong. The reality of the other 31 teams being winless while the Browns are undefeated is always pleasant. A time for both optimism and wishful thinking, imagine the 3-13 Browns of last year becoming a 9-7 playoff hopeful.  Let’s review key pointers of what has happened this off-season and give it a #ThatsSoBrowns or #Believeland rating.

The State of the Browns: 2016 Off-Season Edition

New Coaching Staff and Front Office

This is not just another staff reboot. The owners, Dee and Jimmy Haslam, hired some debatable front office staff with a new analytics attitude.  One of the more traditional hires, Sashi Brown, an internal promotion from Vice President/General Counsel to Executive VP of Football Operations.  Then there’s the new knight in shinning armor, Browns new head coach Hue Jackson.  Despite not given a prolonged stint as the Oakland Raiders head man, he made a splash in the last few years as the Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator. Jackson now holds the head-coaching reigns as an offensive and quarterback guru.

Initially, these two changes give us a 10/10 #ThatsSoBrowns feeling, however there is much debate over football analytics with it’s used in player scouting and development. Introducing Paul DePodesta, the new Chief Strategy officer.  A long-time baseball executive, he will attempt to bring baseball’s “Moneyball” strategy to football, starting with the Cleveland Browns.

New Coaching Staff and Front Office: 8/10 #ThatsSoBrowns and ALSO a 9/10 #Believeland rating.

Draft Day

Kevin Costner would be proud of the way that the 2016 Draft was executed. The coaching staff seem to be committed to building from the draft and not through free agency. See wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (five catches, 53 yards) and Brian Hartline (46 catches, 523 yards) last year.  Bowe signed at two years/$12.5 million and Hartline inked a two-year/$6 million contract as free agents in 2015.  Neither are still with the team.  The addition of 14 draft picks for this year–including five receivers–will be a good boost for all of the Pro Bowl talent (Alex Mack, Travis Benjamin, Tashaun Gipson, Mitchel Schwartz) that signed with other teams this off-season.

Additionally, the accumulation of multiple draft picks in the future including a first, second and seventh-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick for 2018 drafts give much promise to the future of the Browns if they stick to the draft-building mentality.

Draft Day: 0/10 #ThatsSoBrowns; 10/10 #Believeland

The Baylor Effect

News broke recently about the conditional reinstatement of wide receiver Josh Gordon.  With an endorsement from franchise legend Jim Brown and the rare allowance for Gordon to remain with the team during his four-game suspension, there are high hopes among everyone to see him succeed. Not only with the Browns and football, but also in life. This is his last chance. Let’s hope that he can unite with wideout Corey Coleman and tight end Gary Barnidge to create a three-headed receiving threat.

This off-season, the Browns signed quarterback Robert Griffin III.  With the help of Hue Jackson, it is optimistic that RG3 can channel his breakout rookie season and help out a team that has been lackluster on offense, to say the least.  At Baylor, Josh Gordon received over 700 yards passed by RGIII in 2010; if they can repeat that one statistic, it will be a huge improvement over last year’s aforementioned free agent receivers.  As far as offensive playmakers, things are looking up for the Browns.

Keeping in mind that Josh Gordon is on his last chance, there is the possibility of a letdown.  Therefore, I rate The Baylor Effect: 5/10 #ThatsSoBrowns; 5/10 #Believeland.

Much can change throughout the preseason.  It is not even clear that the Browns front office wants to keep Josh Gordon, although his manager suggests they “are on board.” Injuries, suspensions and other unknowns will work themselves out over the next four weeks and into the season.  We will follow everything that happens throughout the year and bring updated State of the Browns ratings as the season progresses.

Taking an average of the ratings, I declare that the State of the Browns today is as follows: 5/10 #ThatsSoBrowns; 8.2/10 #Believeland.

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