BEREA— Joe Thomas has been here before, but you couldn't tell by the look on his face.
Less than 24 hours after Cleveland’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thomas appeared in the Browns locker room— the lone presence in another wise empty area— with his patented smile plastered across his mug.
Maybe that’s how he’s able to cope with the losing.
As it would appear, he’s coping with it well.
“No, I guess I don’t know if I’ll ever be there,” Thomas said, when asked if he’s had it with seemingly endless losing. “I’ve always had a very task-oriented mind and I'm kind of focused on the task at hand right now and hope we can still get this thing turned around before I get kicked out to pasture.”
Though the Browns may indeed turn it around by the time Thomas calls it a career, this year will not be the year in which they do it.
With the league's worst record at 2-8, in addition to the league's worst defense, the Browns can’t boast a single area of strength— maybe outside of the quarterback position— and have little to play for down the stretch.
As was previously mentioned, however, Thomas has been here before and knows how to handle this situation.
“We got six games to go and we’re going to divide it up like six, one-game seasons,” Thomas said. "In each one of those games, we’re going to prepare to win in the best manner possible and try to make the best of it.”
An improvement over the end of the season would certainly help to ease the early pain, but with so many issues on this team right now, it’s hard to put a finger on where the team should begin to address their struggles.
“I can’t attribute it to one thing. It’s always different and that's always the problem, it’s never one thing,” Thomas said. “(We can’t say,) ‘well, if you just clean this up, we'll have it solved.’”
While the problems will be difficult to solve, at least the Browns know who's in charge of solving them.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine said that he and the coaching staff will take a hard look at the many problems plaguing them throughout this bye week, with the goal of finding solutions.
"We're taking this opportunity to understand the 'why' of where we are,” Pettine said. “We're going to come to an understanding of the 'why' and do what we can to get it fixed.”
So, how will the Browns unearth the “why?”
According to Pettine, they'll do so by going through all of their methods, schemes and personnel and determining what needs an overhaul, what needs to remain the same and what needs some slight tweaks.
“Being a 2-8 football team forces you to question yourself, question your methods,” Pettine said. “The fact of the matter is we're not playing good enough football, playing complete football games. We're not playing well enough. We're not coaching well enough… that all has to be improved.”
Though they want to find the hidden problems as quickly as possible, Pettine feels too that the need to do it carefully, as to not mess with some of the things that are working well for the team.
“If you panic and just say we have to change everything – the players sense that, too,” Pettine said. “You don’t want to just wholesale question what you’re doing, but you’ve got to isolate it.”
If the Browns are able to isolate the problems, they feel they have a plan in place to rotate them in the right direction.
“As you pile up answers in each category, that steers you to a solution,” Pettine said. “If it’s schematic, we’ve got to change it or throw it out. If it’s technical, we’ve got to practice it better. If it’s personnel, we’ve got to shake up the lineup.”
The result of the search for “why” may prove fruitful, but Thomas wishes it wasn’t necessary.
After all, tthe Browns are far better than they appear and their record doesn’t accurately reflect the talent on the roster and sidelines, or so he believes.
“We have a lot of good players on this team and we shouldn't be 2-8,” Thomas said. “We should be better than where we are right now."
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.