At 0 - 4, it was not surprising that readers' reaction was mixed. Some were optimistic and agreeable but others state that record was the only thing that concerned them, that not being able to finish games was a sign of "same old Browns" and that I was just searching for positives.
To be clear, I don't think the Browns are ready to compete for a Super Bowl next year but believe that in Year 3 and 4 of the Hue Jackson/Analytics Front Office combination, the Browns will be competing for Division and Conference Titles.
I'm not sipping the Kool Aid in every area, however. I have 3 very big concerns that, if not answered, will be the difference between title opportunities and another new regime.
Special Teams Coach Chris Tabor
Tabor has survived a number of regimes in Cleveland while fans and media wonder how he has a job. His special teams have not been dynamic, which is okay, but they also haven't been fundamentally sound, not an acceptable combination.
The Browns, under Tabor, have struggled blocking for kicks and covering kicks. Outside of Travis Benjamin, there have been little excitement in returns.
Over the past year plus, Tabor's idea of a punt returner has been a veteran who can fair catch everything. With Jim Leonhard retiring, CB Tramon Williams and S Jordan Poyer have taken over that fair catching role this season. Even CB Joe Haden has been listed as a punt returner.
Special Teams either needs to be electric or fundamentally sound. Tabor has had neither.
In order for the Browns to be good, Tabor and the Special Teams need to improve or be replaced.
The obvious longtime question, the Browns have to answer their QB question. There was hope, especially by me, that Robert Griffin III would be that guy. He showed some talent and led to some excitement but his ability to stay healthy is too big of a question.
Thos who have followed my writing, or on Twitter, know my concerns about "Good getting in the way of Great." This is especially true when discussing Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Over the last few season, the Bengals have had, arguably, the best roster in the NFL. Even with that, they haven't won a Playoff game. Last year, Dalton was out but he hasn't been able to carry his team in big time games.
Dalton is good, much better than anything the Browns have had, but because of him, the Bengals can't be great. They, like the Browns, passed on Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and others because Dalton was on their roster.
That is "Good getting in the way of Great."
I'm worried that the performance of Cody Kessler could lead the Browns down a similar path. Obviously, it would be great to find THE Franchise QB in the 3rd Round and get to use the 1st and 2nd Round picks on other talented players but Kessler is, at best, good.
He won't be able to lead the Browns to greatness.
We know the two names, DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson, at the top of next year's NFL Draft. The Browns have to decide if one of them has the chance to be great. With extra picks in the 1st and 2nd Round, plus another extra 2nd the following year, the Browns need to be aggressive in getting the guy they believe in.
Dalton and the Bengals are better than anything the Browns have even sniffed. They are not great and the Browns have to be shooting to be great.
That starts with the coach, front office and QB. So far so good with the first two, the question at QB still looms.
Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton
Up front, I've never been a big fan of Horton's. His defense has a boom or bust issue that isn't solid enough for me. That defense often gives up long gains on crossing routes and to running backs getting passes out of the backfield.
Based on how quickly he was dismissed in Oakland, how hard he pushed to hire Horton away from the Titans and his confidence, I expect Hue Jackson to stick with Horton for a number of years. No matter the results.
While the Browns have added talent, their defense has a ton of needs. Outside of QB, the secondary is the second biggest need for the team. The defensive line looks better and the linebackers are young and talented.
Expect the Browns to put a lot of resources toward the defensive side of the ball next year to give Horton a boost on that side of the ball. A free agent or two plus a few picks in the first 4 rounds will give the Browns and Horton the kind of talent they need.
Next year shouldn't be a deciding factor on Jackson or the Front Office but may be one for Horton. If his pressure oriented defense can't get it done, the Browns need to find a defensive coordinator that can get the job done.
What concerns (beside the record) do you have about the Browns 4 games into the new regime?null