If there is absolutely anything at all that the Cleveland Browns have had going for them this season, it has been, at a bare minimum, first-year Head Coach Hue Jackson’s ability to instill in his players the belief that they are building something that is greater than the sum of its parts, and that it will take time.
By and large, even with the team facing the very, very real prospect of posting the second 0-16 team in NFL history with just two games to play, every report has indicated that the players still believe in their coach, and in each other, and that has driven them to play for one another.
Even, apparently, if that means putting off surgeries until the offseason, even though there is absolutely nothing to play for at this point of the season—unless, of course, these players really, really don’t want to put up a complete goose egg in the win column for the entire season, although I don’t see a good opportunity for them to prevent that.
Right now, just about every team in the league is dealing with a roster that is banged up to some degree or another. It is virtually impossible for a team to escape an entire 16-game season unscathed. But normally, on a team with nothing to play for, when players know that they are facing the prospect of surgery in the offseason, and it’s late in the year, and there is a guarantee that you have nothing to gain by playing, the player opts to have surgery.
That was, for example, not the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers and safety Mike Mitchell in 2013, his first season here. Mitchell played through a groin injury that season that he actually suffered in the offseason. But the Steelers actually had something to play for, so he toughed it out.
Just last year, the Browns were an organization on which players quite on the team before the season was even over. That is partly why they lost so many free agents in the past couple of seasons. Former Browns players have at times had a lot to say about the organization, most recently Taylor Gabriel.
Now, you have veteran cornerback Joe Haden telling reporters yesterday that he is going to postpone surgery for multiple groin tears until after the season is over, which is exactly the same thing that Mitchell did three years ago.
Only, of course, Mitchell’s team had something to lose. The Browns have nothing to lose, and nothing to play for. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor is yet another who has elected to postpone necessary surgery until after the season is over in order to see this year through for Jackson and his teammates.
As much as I don’t want to see a division rival succeed—and never at the expense of the Steelers, of course—I do like to hear this about a Browns franchise that is really stumbling right now, and hasn’t gotten off to the fresh start that they were hoping for. But perhaps the players are right, and that there is truly something better coming on the horizon.