Comparing the Browns to Two Former Champs

The Cleveland Browns have built a defense and run oriented team. We compare them to two former Super Bowl Champion teams that were built similarly. Hope you enjoy the comparison.

Before you start reading this article, I ask you watch this 2:30 minute video of The OBR Presents... The Disclaimer Edition:

Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, today I want to look at the Cleveland Browns 2015 team and compare them to two Super Bowl winning teams, the 2013 Seattle Seahawks and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

Both teams are historical based simply on the fact that they won the Super Bowl. As noted in The OBR Presents... video, this is not to say that the Browns will win the Super Bowl, only to see where this team sits compared to those.

I ask that you read forward with an open mind. This story started because I was interested in comparing the Browns to these historical teams. I literally have no idea how these comparisons will play out as I write this. I will analyze as I go and see what the results are, no preconceived notions.

So lets start with the most obvious place to begin, the most problematic place. Quarterback.


Trent Dilfer vs. Russell Wilson vs. Josh McCown

In 2000 Dilfer led the 22nd rated passing offense for half of the season, Tony Banks started the other 8 games. The passing offense threw for 2,815 yards, 20 TDs and 19 INTs. Dilfer only completed 59% of his passes with 76.6 QB Rating. Dilfer himself had 12 TDs and 11 INTs. The Ravens averaged 31 pass attempts per game.

In 2013 Wilson led the 26th rated passing offense. He threw for 3,357 yards with 26 TDs and 9 INTs. He averaged 25 pass attempts per game. He had a passing rating of 101.2. Wilson also ran the ball 96 times for 539 yards and 1 TD.

For the Browns, McCown will be asked to take charge of the teams offense in his first season. Last year the Browns threw the ball 502 times, an average of 31 times a game, same as Dilfer and 6 more than Wilson. McCown will likely attempt a similar amount of passes this year, if not a few less.

Wilson was a young developing player in 2013 while Dilfer was much closer to McCown in his lone year with the Ravens. He was in his 7th season after failing to live up to expectations in Tampa Bay. He went on to play games for 4 other teams after 2000.

Objectively, even given his young age and minimal expectations from the pocket, Wilson is obviously better than Dilfer and McCown. Neither Dilfer or McCown are great and an argument could be made for either of the other. Lets just call it a tie.


Jamal Lewis vs. Marshawn Lynch vs. Isaiah Crowell

All three teams plan to be led by their running games. Lewis had 309 attempts for 1,364 yards with 6 TDs. His yards per carry was a solid 4.4. The Ravens rush offense was ranked 5th in the NFL. Lynch had 301 attempts for 1,257 yards with 12 TDs. He also had an average over 4 YPC at 4.2. Seattle's run game was ranked 4th overall.

Crowell shared the load last year with fellow rookie Terrance West and is joined by Duke Johnson. He had 148 attempts for 607 yards with 8 TDs and a 4.1 YPC average. He and West combined for 1,280 yards and 12 TDs in their timeshare. The Browns were ranked 17th as a rush offense. Crowell has a similar bruising style as Lewis and Lynch.

Based on his limited experience Crowell falls behind both Lewis and Lynch. Based on last year's numbers, if Crowell was given the full load of the Browns run game his numbers would have looked similar to both Lewis and Lynch.


Qadry Ismail vs. Golden Tate vs. Dwayne Bowe

The Ravens were led at WR by the 30 year old Ismail who only had 49 receptions for 655 yards and 5 TDs. Seattle's Tate was more productive with 64 catches, 898 yards and 5 TDs. As run based offenses, the numbers for the WRs were not great for either team. Both teams spread around their touches to numerous receivers as well as tight ends and running backs.

Bowe, the Browns new lead receiver came over from Kansas City. With Alex Smith as his QB, and an offense focused on short throws, Bowe had 60 catches for 754 yards but 0 TDs. Comparable numbers to Ismail and Tate, except for the touchdowns.

Tate has continued to improve since the Super Bowl year while Ismail was out of the league quickly. Bowe is unlikely to improve but at 30 years old he should have a few good years left under him. None of these three are significantly better than the others.


Shannon Sharpe vs. Zach Miller vs. Rob Housler

This one is pretty easy. Even though the Ravens were not a big throwing team, Sharpe had 67 catches with 810 yards and 5 TDs. Miller falls far below Sharpe in talent and production He had 33 catches for 387 yards and the same 5 TDs.

Sadly Housler, especially with his injury issues, doesn't compare to either Shapre or Miller last year. He had 9 catches for 129 yards. His best season was in 2012 with 45 catches with 39 the following year. Each season he had over 400 yards as well. He only has 1 TD in his career.

Having a safety valve who can stretch the field like Sharpe would be huge for McCown, Housler hasn't proven he can be that at all.

Unlike the other positions, offensive line and the defenses are not as easily measured by statistics. We still want to take a look obviously.


Since we already looked at run and pass stats, we can look at Seattle and Cleveland's Pro Football Focus ratings. Sadly we don't have such for the Ravens in 2000. Besides Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens didn't have any memorable players on their offensive line. The others were drafted in the 4th, 5th and 7th round as well as one undrafted player.

In 2013 the Seahawks were ranked 20th in pass blocking with a -18.1 and 22nd in run blocking with a -14.1. Both numbers are a bit surprising based on the success of their run and pass games.

The Browns last season were the 2nd best pass blocking team with a 21.1 rating and were the 11th rated run blocking team with a 0.5 rating. The Browns have added Cameron Erving in the 1st Round and could start Michael Bowie as well. With Alex Mack out for much of last year, the Browns line should improve greatly.

The Browns have a vastly better offensive line than the Seahawks and a better line than the 2000 Ravens.

Run Defense

The Ravens were a historically good defense. They only gave up 970 yards on the ground, almost 200 yards less than the #2 team. They also only gave up 5 rushing TDs also tops in the league.

The Seahawks also had the top ranked defense. Their run defense was "only" ranked 8th overall but only gave up 4 TDs running. PFF rated Seattle's run defense 4th overall.

The Browns run defense was TERRIBLE last year. They gave up the most yards in the league, 2,265 yards and 13 TDs. Surprisingly the Browns only rated as the 19th run defense but anyone who watched them last year know how bad they were.

The Browns have added a lot of talent including Danny Shelton, Randy Starks and Xavier Cooper to try to shore up the run defense. Only if the Browns run defense can come close to a Top 10 quality will the team have a shot of making a playoff push.

Pass Defense

To pair with their great run defense, the Ravens also had the 8th best pass defense. This was surprising given that teams gave up on running on the Ravens. They still were able to shut down opponents passing. They only gave up 11 TDs in the air as well.

The Seahawks were dominant in pass defense, only giving up 2,752 yards in a passing league. They surrendered only 16 TDs, 2nd best in the league. Their pass coverage was rated by PFF double that of any other team, with their pass rush number almost double better than the 2nd best.

The Browns had a very good pass defense last year. The combination of high level talent and teams running on them any chance they got, the Browns were 8th best last year against the pass. PFF rated them as the best in pass coverage last year even though their pass rush defense was 5th worst in the league.

Wrapping Up

Are the 2015 Cleveland Browns the 2000 Ravens of the 2013 Seahawks? No. But the comparisons are interesting.

QB - Wilson > Dilfer = McCown RB - Lynch = Lewis > Crowell WR - Ismail = Tate = Bowe TE - Sharpe >>> Miller >> Housler OL - Browns > Ravens > Seahawks Run D - Ravens > Seahawks > Browns (Depending on how off-season additions pan out. Pass D - Seahawks > Browns > Ravens

While the Browns fall short in most of the categories, not surprising since the other two teams won the Super Bowl. Yet with the great offensive line, comparable running backs and receivers as well as a very good pass defense and an upgraded run defense, could the Browns team succeed?

The Cleveland Browns are unlikely to come close to a Super Bowl this year but could they carry on the success of the limited QB, great defense and good run game teams of the past?

This was a fun exercise for this writer and I hope it was for you as well. I hope you were able to come in with an open mind and enjoyed comparing our beloved Browns to 2 former Champs.

Looking forward to all your thoughts, both good and bad, in the forum.

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