COMMENTARY | This is a familiar spot for fans of the Cleveland Browns.
A season that started out with hopes that Cleveland could finish with a winning record for the first time since 2007 has instead turned out to be another disappointing year for the Browns. Currently 4-9, Cleveland is likely headed towards double-digit losses for the sixth straight season.
Cleveland's struggles in 2013 have to be even more frustrating for Browns fans because this team has some legitimate All-Pro candidates. Tight end Jordan Cameron, wide receiver Josh Gordon, and cornerback Joe Haden have been among the best in the NFL at their respective positions this season. Gordon, in particular, could be a dark horse MVP candidate at season's end.
Now losers of seven of their last eight, any optimism that surrounded the Browns after their 3-2 start is long gone. The question is why did Cleveland revert to its usual losing ways when it looked like they were finally going to have a respectable year in 2013?
There's a few reasons, of course. Injuries to quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell, along with the putrid play of Brandon Weeden, has crippled the Browns' offense at times in 2013. Then there was Cleveland's three-week comedy of errors, turnover-wise. Coming off their bye week with serious playoff hopes, Cleveland coughed up the football 11 times in their next three games - all losses - as their postseason dreams went up in smoke.
While those two factors, along with Cleveland's inability to finish games on the defensive side of the football, have been major contributors to the Browns' woes in 2013, there is one main reason why Cleveland has disappointed fans once again in 2013 - their running game stinks.
No one ever expected a punishing rushing attack from the Browns once Norv Turner was hired on as Cleveland's offensive coordinator, but the Browns' ground game in 2013 has exceeded even the lowest expectations of most fans.
A quick look at the numbers provides the most damning evidence of Cleveland's struggles on the ground in 2013. The Browns currently rank 27th in yards per carry, 28th in yards per game, and dead last in the NFL with just two rushing touchdowns in 2013. That's when Cleveland decides to run the football, because only the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons have fewer rushing attempts than the Browns this season.
Two of the other factors I mentioned earlier in this article on why the Browns have struggled in 2013 are the direct result of Cleveland's lack of a running game. The Browns have attempted an NFL-high 561 passes in 2013, which resulted in more hits on Cleveland's quarterbacks, which resulted in their subsequent injuries.
Cleveland's defense is getting worn down at the end of games because of an offense that cannot sustain drives. The Browns' defense has been on the field for 906 plays this season, which is the fourth-most in the NFL.
While I'll never argue the Browns' logic in trading running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, I will fault the Cleveland front office and coaching staff for allowing the Browns to abandon the running game in 2013, because that is the main reason why the Browns are one the NFL's bottom feeders once again this fall.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.
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