COMMENTARY | At a press conference on April 19th new Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was asked if he would lead the team to the Super Bowl. "Eventually" was his response. Only time, the 2013 draft and free agency period will tell us if he's the aggressive team owner the Browns need and how soon he'll make good on that promise.
Regardless, I predict the Browns are more likely than not to have a disappointing 2013 season - here are a few of the reasons why:
Jimmy Haslam's attention will be divided and allegations about his trustworthiness are bound to be disheartening to players and fans alike.
The real focus of the aforementioned press conference was the raid on Jimmy Haslam's family business, Pilot Flying J, by the FBI. According to a 120 page affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tennessee, the FBI and IRS are investigating charges of conspiracy, mail, and wire fraud related to the withholding of fuel rebates from "unsophisticated" customers Pilot Flying J felt would not catch on.
Once the investigation is in full swing, it's going to be a circus for Haslam and Pilot Flying J, and the Browns are unlikely to get the focus they need from him.
You can feel it and hear it all over Cleveland - the optimism fans were feeling about Haslam has faded, and that could affect everything from player performance to ticket sales.
This is Rob Chudzinski's first gig as a head coach
Chudzinski has had mixed success in Cleveland as an offensive coordinator. In 2007 the Browns ended the season with a 10-6 record - their last winning season to date. In 2008, however, the Browns were last in the division, and most of those losses have to be ascribed to the offensive performance, with 170 point drop-off in total points scored. It should be noted that there were four starting quarterbacks that year, due to a combination of performance and injury.
In 2011 Chudzinski served as an offensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers, and with the help of explosive rookie quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers went from one of the league's worst offenses to one of the top ten. There was a slight drop-off in offensive performance in 2012, but overall Chudzinski put in a decent performance with the Panthers.
All together Chudzinski has coached for less than ten years in the NFL, and this is his first gig as a head coach. There are bound to be some growing pains, so let's hope the experience of the coaching staff around him is enough to overcome the gaps in his resume.
One of the biggest criticisms fans had for coach Shurmur was that he appeared to be less than transparent about the short comings of the team and coaching staff. The fans don't want to hear "I like what I saw" after a devastatingly poor performance by the team. So coach Chudzinski, if you're listening, please say it like it is.
The QB Controversy
People say that Cleveland is where coaches and quarterbacks go to die, and though it's usually said over a beer with a grin, the truth is the Browns have gone through 18 starting quarterbacks in the last 14 years. There have been seven quarterbacks drafted and many others signed as free agents. You'd think with so many to choose from at least one would have had a stand out performance.
This year the Browns signed free agent Jason Campbell to give Brandon Weeden some competition, but no matter who wins the starting job the other will be the object of fans desires if the team comes out flat. The most popular guy in town is always the back-up quarterback when the team is losing.
Shane Graham is no Phil Dawson
If you go by stats alone Graham and Dawson are pretty close. Shane Graham has a slight advantage over Dawson for overall accuracy, but at distances greater than 50 yards Dawson's your man. It will be interesting to see how Graham handles long range attempts in the wind and snow of Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Let me set the scene. It's late in the season, the snow is blowing sideways and it's one of those games where every player is so frozen the only one who seems to score is the kicker. It's blustery and the flags all around the stadium are blowing different directions as the clock winds down. The field goal unit goes in for a 40 yarder. Graham or Dawson, who do you want kicking? I'll take Dawson all day long.
Browns fans have endured 14 years of disappointing football. But each year our hopes are raised by even the smallest positive sign because we want it. We need it. We love Browns football. If we haven't turned our backs yet, we aren't going to.
Last year the Browns won only five games but five of the games we lost were by a touchdown or less. I know it's a stretch, but if we'd taken those games, we'd have been division champs. With the 2013 draft right here in front of us, all Cleveland fans need to get high on hope is for a few key positions to be filled. Give us a solid pass rusher and a shut-down cornerback and we'll be happy.
That's how it goes, year after year. We get emotionally invested, dress up like dogs, paint our cars in team colors, and meet in the Muny lot to tailgate like no others. Then we get crushed. This year, for all the reasons listed above, we're likely to have our hopes crushed again. But you know what? Win or lose, we'll be in the stadium rooting for the Browns, and next year we'll look for positive signs and do it all over again.
Maybe I'm wrong - I hope I am. Maybe Haslam's legal woes will have no effect on the team, the Browns will draft key talent that produces, and we'll end up with a quarterback that will rise to the occasion and lead this team. All we need is an extra win here and there and the whole picture changes. Maybe the Browns will come out swinging and make this a year to remember. I'd love to see it.
John McCarthy is a Yahoo! Contributor covering the Cleveland Browns and Indians as a Cleveland-based sports journalist and editor.
Follow John on Twitter @i8paintchips
For more from John McCarthy:Unexpected Benefits of Organic Gardening The Trouble with Jen - her $10,000.00 journey to a diagnosis
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Jimmy Haslam
- the Browns
- Rob Chudzinski