After week 10 of the NFL season, the Browns sat at 4-5 with a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. That is, they had a shot if they were any team other than the Cleveland Browns. Coming off that week’s 24-18 win against the Baltimore Ravens, I tweeted at a Ravens’ fan with what I thought to be a pessimistic take on the Browns season:

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Max Segal, of course, understood the Browns better than I did. I wasn’t being nearly pessimistic enough.

Why I believed the Browns could ever be anything other than a 5-11 or 4-12 team is beyond me. In fact, in a slightly contradictory Facebook post a few weeks before that, I was more realistic. After defending the Browns trading Trent Richardson away, I added this: “P.S.: The Indians are in the playoffs and who really cares about the route the Browns take to get to 5-11.” Because, if you didn’t already know, the Browns have something of a 4-12/5-11 fetish:

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For those scoring at home: in the past eleven seasons, exactly twice have the Browns finished with a record different than 4-12 or 5-11. Once, they finished 6-10. Another time, they finished 10-6 (but don’t worry, they didn’t make the playoffs).

The point is, it was the Browns’ destiny to be 5-11 or 4-12 this season. They lost their final seven games and finished at 4-12 because of course they did.

Let’s take a look back at the many ups-and-downs in their average, below-average season: the good, the bad, and the Brandon Weeden:

The Good: 

Joshua Caleb Gordon- Joshua Caleb Gordon is a true American Hero. Capital A. Capital H. Not only did this dude once get suspended at Baylor for getting stoned and FALLING ASLEEP IN A CAR IN THE DRIVE-THRU LANE OF A TACO BELL — you can’t make this stuff up, folks — he also got suspended for the first two games of this NFL season for his using codeine. Which he was taking for strep throat, OF COURSE. For “strep throat.” Strep throat? Strep throat.

But what did Josh Gordon do when he got back on the football field? He caught footballs and scored football touchdowns at an unprecedented clip. He put the football in American football touchdowns. He put the football in the football end zone.

My favorite moment of the season was when the Josh Gordon was playing the Patriots while the Browns and I were watching. Gordon was being jammed at the line by Aqib Talib. I saw it happen before it happened: Gordon ran a quick slant, and before Jason Campbell could find a way to throw a screen pass, the best receiver in the AFC was wide open. Campbell laid the ball out for him. Gordon caught it and put on the Josh Gordon burners that we all grew accustomed to seeing over the course of the season. A gazelle, streaking through the New England pasture. He outran the entire Patriots secondary and then (very prematurely) told Patriots fans it was over with a throat-slashing gesture. It was a glorious moment, and the high point of the most gut-wrenching loss I’ve endured as a Browns fan.

Not only was Gordon the hottest topic in fantasy football discussions in the second-half of the season — for once making Browns games relevant in the midst of Sunday Ticket football bars — he was an absolute pleasure to watch every week. He excelled with Jason “I’m actually your best option” Campbell under center, and even caught a few passes thrown by BRANDON WEEDEN, a feat in and of itself. Does Josh Gordon care about football? His body language would suggest he does not. Catch him sauntering off the field with “I really could fucking care less” swag on Any Given Sunday, followed by a routine five-yard catch that ends up being an 80-yard touchdown. I don’t care if Josh Gordon cares about football. I don’t care if he smokes himself silly this offseason, or crashes a motorcycle on a Kellen-Winslow-joyride (I’ve got my money on the drug-related scenario, though): we will always have 2013, Joshua. And I thank you for that.

Rob Chudzinski- All signs are pointing to Rob Chudzinksi getting fired tomorrow, something only the Browns would consider doing. After being supplied with an offense that couldn’t possibly win a Division I-AA championship, Chud decided to play Madden football all over the fucking place like a dude who grew up playing Madden, all over the fucking place. It was glorious. As I have said since Week 1, if the Browns were going to be 5-11 (fine, 4-12), they might as well make it interesting. And interesting is what Chud specializes in. Not only did the Browns lead the league in “going-for-it” on fourth down — and I can assure you, he was frequently “going-for-it” in the first half — he refused to make conservative play calls. He refused to settle for field goals. He called for fake punts, fake field goals, and onside kicks. Did these decisions always pay off? Absolutely not. Are the Browns fated to be 4-12 or 5-11? We went over that already. 

If the Browns fire Chud tomorrow, it will be the worst decision they make all offseason (and I’m sure they will make plenty of other bad ones). Browns players are already mad that it is rumored he could get the axe. What this franchise needs is continuity. Chud did everything he could with the group he had. We are loaded with draft picks. I totally think he could lead us to 5-11 next year, and then, just maybe, 5-11 in 2015. 

Well, they fired Chud as I was writing this. Hours after the loss to the Steelers. Great.

Brian Hoyer- We were on the fast track to a 2025 ESPN Films Production of “Brian Hoyer: The Hometown Hero” until Kiko Alonso UFC’d the piss out of Hoyer’s knee. Hoyer was a goddamn Disney story, having grown up outside of Cleveland cheering for the Browns and Indians. That shouldn’t matter, but it does. After his first NFL win on the road in Minnesota, Hoyer actually said it was a good day because the Indians won. Are you fucking kidding me? Who doesn’t want their quarterback to be simultaneously cheering for the hometown baseball team?

Hoyer’s magic carpet ride started on a Wednesday morning, when the biggest football news of the week was that Hoyer, and not Jason Campbell, would take snaps for the Browns against Minnesota. I actually heard this news on ESPN radio in Oakland on my way to work: it was a national story. I loved it. Jason Campbell wasn’t the future. Was Brian Hoyer? Probably not, but we would soon find out, I rationalized. It felt like the right move. The next day we traded Trent Richardson. The consensus was that we had thrown the towel in, less than three weeks into the 2013 football season.

And then Hoyer did something special, something Browns fans hadn’t seen a quarterback do since — gulp — Colt McCoy: he played a very average game against the Vikings, punctuated with a ballsy touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron late in the fourth quarter that proved to be a game-winner. He followed that performance up with a 17-6 win against Cincinnati. He seemed to be the solution. Even if he was simply the the short-term solution, it was an exciting development.

But Cleveland fans can’t have nice things. And, after all, Brian Hoyer is a Cleveland fan. So Kiki Alonso made damn sure that Brandon Weeden was going to come do the Brandon Weeden clown show thing for the rest of the game. That went well. (In all fairness, Weeden found a way to not lose that particular game. The rest of his starts… not so much).

The Bad-

Running Back Situation- Well, holy god. It’s almost like Chud and Norv Turner had no chance to ever get the offense going because we never had a competent running game. After seeing how badly Richardson has continued to play now that he is an Indianapolis Colt, it appears as though the Browns flipping Trent Richardson for a first round pick might be the biggest heist since the Browns traded four picks to the Vikings to move up one spot in the 2012 draft in order to select none other than Trent Richardson. Fuck.

The Browns endured the following farcical cast of backs during the 2013 season: Trent Richardson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Bobby Rainey, Willis McGahee, Fozzy Whitaker, Edwin Baker, and, just for fun, MarQueis Gray taking wildcat snaps every now and again. That’s right, wildcat snaps. In 2013.

The truth is, Edwin Baker did a totally respectable job down the stretch. I hope the Browns front office gives him a chance next year. But Edwin Baker is probably not the long term solution, and this is a list of running backs that were drafted after Trent Richardson in 2012: Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Bernard Pierce, LaMichael James, Lamar Miller, and, yes, Edwin Baker. I’m not saying any of those guys other than Dough Martin (when healthy) or Alfred Morris is guaranteed to have been a better pick than Trent Richardson, but I am saying we could have gotten any of them much later in the draft and we would not have wasted four picks in obtaining them. But I’m the one who decided the Cleveland Browns were my favorite team. The Browns didn’t decide that for me. Now I have to deal with it.

Defense- I really like a lot of the defensive pieces that the Browns have. Joe Haden is a stud in coverage (though he got beat badly a few times in December). TJ Ward is a pro-bowler (which means something, I guess?). D’Qwell Jackson again lead the team in tackles and is an anchor in the middle of the defense. Even Buster Skrine made great strides this season if you consider that just a year ago he was getting beat more often than Tina Turner.

But this goddamn team gave up 25.7 points per game, and I would swear to you that 20 of those points per game were scored in the second half. I am actually going to take the time to research this myself because I can’t find it online. Back in 30.

*Research In Progress*

You know what’s funny about statistics vs. perception? Of the 25.7 points per game that the Cleveland Browns gave up, 12.4 of those were surrendered in the first half. So almost exactly half of the points they surrendered were given up in the first half. So much for my theory.

Anyway, first half, second half, the Browns gave up way too many points and couldn’t stop good football teams from driving when it mattered most. I refuse to cite statistics that might support this claim because they probably don’t exist.

Greg Little- Greg Little is garbage. I’m not even going to discuss this further. Look at this fucking game log:

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Enough said.

Actually, fuck that. Greg Little was targeted 95 TIMES and he caught exactly 40 OF THOSE THROWS. I’m not saying the triumphant triumvirate of Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell is the most accurate of groups, but good jesus, Greg. Have a little self respect. On a side note: Little is the ultimate “can only make the spectacular catch” kind of guy. He reminds me of Braylon Edwards in that sense. Leave it to Greg to go up and get a ball in double coverage with his fingertips, haul it in, get hit by a safety coming over to help out and somehow hold on to the ball, only to come down with both feet a yard out of bounds. That (or something like it) actually happened this season. Greg Little, ladies and gentlemen. Cut him now.

Brandon Weeden-

Brandon Weeden is like Brandon Weeden. He can’t be compared to anybody else. The fact that he had the 4th worst QBRating is evidence enough that QBRating is a flawed statistic. I tried to like him. I bought into the whole “he wasn’t a west coast offense guy” thing, but there isn’t any coast, country, or planet that Brandon Weeden can play quarterback on. If you needed a big play from Weeds, late in the game, you could expect something like this instead:

Sorry, but I’m not sorry for the shitty music featured in that video. It’s all part of the Brandon Weeden Experience, an Experience that I truly hope is over for all of us self-loathing Browns fans. It’s too painful to watch, and there are too many CFL fans who would love to make fun of the way he looks and plays football.

Until next year, Browns fans. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be 5-11.