Misery loves company but the Browns are in a world by themselves. Cleveland currently doesn’t enjoy comfort from the world’s greatest salve when life doesn’t go your way, the ability to point elsewhere and say: “They’re doing worse than us.”
No other team even qualifies for “as bad as us” when it comes to Cleveland this season.
The San Francisco 49ers have lost 10 consecutive games since opening with a 28-0 pasting of the Los Angeles Rams. The Browns have lost 11 consecutive games since opening with a 29-10 defeat against Philadelphia. They enter their bye week just four games shy of completing the NFL’s second-ever 0-16 campaign.
First-year coach Hue Jackson nearly cried but quickly composed himself after Sunday’s defeat against the New York Giants. “Being 0-12 is probably … the hardest thing ever,” he told reporters in his postgame news conference. “It’s been a long 12 weeks.”
Maybe the break will help. And a familiar face might return at quarterback, which can’t hurt.
Robert Griffin III wasn’t expected to be Cleveland’s savior when he signed a two-year contract in March. RG3 was looking for a place to relaunch his career while the Browns were placing a low-risk wager for a potential high return. The experiment was put on hold when he broke his collarbone in the opener.
Now Griffin might be Cleveland’s last hope this season, the only thing standing between infamy and a victory.
Cody Kessler hasn’t gotten the job done in eight starts. Neither has Josh McCown in three starts. For that matter, RG3 was well on his way to being 0-1 as Cleveland’s starter when he scrambled and took a devastating hit late in the fourth quarter against the Eagles. The play reminded everyone that he still has problems sliding, getting out of bounds and generally protecting himself like a quarterback should.
He returned to practice last week and was cleared for full contact this week. Jackson hasn’t committed to playing RG3 against Cincinnati on Dec. 13, but the coach must be anxious to see how his reclamation project fares.
“There’s still things that we need to do and see before I decide to stick him back out there,” Jackson told reporters Tuesday.
Jackson went all-in when he named Griffin the starter in training camp, hoping the former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year could rediscover the form that electrified Washington in 2012. RG3 showed marked improvement during training camp and the preseason, but looked like the same-old has-been in the opener, completing just 12 of 26 passes for 190 yards and an interception.
“Beyond blessed to have an opportunity to get back on the field with my brothers,” Griffin said Tuesday in a statement released by the team. “I promise my teammates and coaches to give them everything I have as we work to finish the season strong.”
RG3 and the struggling Browns are of little concern as Washington strives to reach the playoffs for the second consecutive season behind Kirk Cousins. Once awkward teammates, Cousins and Griffin have now started the same number of NFL games with their careers apparently headed in opposite directions.
Cousins’ success since taking over has helped Washington rinse the stench of being habitual losers. But for all the football failure D.C. suffered this century, we don’t have anything on the Dawg Pound’s agony. In the last 18 years – i.e., since the NFL returned to Cleveland in 1999 – the Browns have just two winning campaigns; they also won five or fewer games 13 times during that span. By comparison, Washington has produced six winning seasons (including this year so far), and 12 seasons with at least six victories.
Cleveland is threatening to join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the NFL’s only 0-for-16 squads. Former defensive lineman Shaun Cody, who ended his career with the Houston Texans after playing for those horrific Lions, has a beneficial perspective on the awful experience.
“I think it made me appreciate winning in the NFL more,” Cody told The Los Angeles Times recently. “After wins in Houston, I really tried to enjoy those moments. Unless you go through something like I went through with the Lions, you don’t really know what it means to enjoy winning in the NFL.”
RG3 can relate when he reminisces about his heady rookie season and the out-of-nowhere seven-game winning streak that gave Washington its first NFC East title since 1999. He likely gives Cleveland its best chance at a W this year, maybe on Christmas Eve when it hosts San Diego in Week 16.
The Chargers won’t have anything to play for besides ignominy if the Browns enter the game at 0-14. No one wants to be the first loser when the opponent has a goose egg in the win column.
But by then, RG3 could be desperate to convince the Browns they didn’t make a mistake.
“I still feel I can be the guy for this team, for this organization,” the told reporters when he returned to practice last week. “And I look forward to going out and proving it.”