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Hope for the Cleveland Browns

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By Brandon Niles EBS Sports Columnist

As of this writing, the Cleveland Browns are winless through 10 weeks of the NFL season. This isn’t new territory for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2002 and hasn’t been out of the AFC North basement since 2010.

But it is unsettling for a fan base experiencing high levels of success in the NBA and the MLB this year. The Browns, ranking in the bottom five of the league in both points allowed and points scored per game this year, are in trouble and without a clear path to recovery.

However, in light of a presidential election that has left the country divided and bitter, I wanted to look for some hope and optimism for the league’s perennial bottom dweller.

First, the Browns have two young quarterbacks who have shown signs of ability, and will likely have a top draft pick in April, allowing them to pick from the available talents at the college level to move forward with. Deshaun Watson from Clemson, Miami’s Brad Kaaya, and most notably, DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame, all look like quality options that will likely be available, so there’s potential for the future in Cleveland at quarterback.

Second, the Browns have a good coaching staff. Head coach Hugh Jackson might take a couple of years to find his groove, but if Cleveland gives him time to gel with his roster and build something up, then he should be able to provide them some badly needed stability. Pep Hamilton has shown promise as an offensive coordinator—he was in charge of the 2014 Indianapolis Colts offense that led the league in passing yards and is credited with assisting in the development of Andrew Luck.

Finally, the Browns have some pieces to build on. Converted quarterback Terrelle Pryor Sr. has been a revelation as a starting wide receiver. He’s on pace for over 1,100 receiving yards this season and has looked every bit the part of a legitimate No. 1 guy on the outside. When healthy, rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman has looked as explosive as he did at Baylor, giving the team two legitimate options in the passing game.

While the defense has a lot of holes, there are talented players on that side of the ball as well. Rookie second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah has flashed the ability to become a consistent pass rusher, notching three sacks over the first half of the season in a hybrid role. With a pair of interceptions and eight passes defended this season, Jamar Taylor looks like he’s turning his career around after floundering in Miami his first three years, and Danny Shelton still looks like a long-term starter at nose tackle.

To move forward, the Browns need to display something they have yet to show since re-joining the league in 1999: patience. The team needs to stick with a coach, develop their young talent, accrue draft picks, and build something sustainable for the long haul.

The Browns can no longer subsist on overpaying free agents and continuing these chaotic offseasons full of roster turnovers, new coaching staffs, and changing systems.

If the Browns stick with Jackson, keep an eye on the future, and show patience in developing their roster—while they look for the permanent answer at the quarterback position—they can and will find their way back to being competitive.

The NFL is full of turnover and excitement every year, and more than any other sport, there is always reason for hope, regardless of which team you call your favorite. All it usually takes is to draft well and get a little lucky at the quarterback position. If the Browns can be patient, there’s no reason we can’t be talking about them as the next great Cleveland sports story in the next few years.

Brandon Niles is a longtime fan of football and scotch, and has been writing about sports for the past decade. He is a fantasy football scout for 4for4 Fantasy Football and is co-host of the 2 Guys Podcast.

The Outlaw Partners is a creative marketing, media and events company based in Big Sky, Montana.

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