Playing Like It's... 1999?

Sure, some writers and fans have compared this season to the Browns troubled 1999 expansion campaign. But not until now did we realize how apt the comparison was. John Taylor has worked up the numbers, and they will make your head spin...

In the midst of what was yet another singular abomination in yet another general abortion of a season, I found my feeble, beer-addled mind wandering as the Browns were getting pounded by the Packers and started thinking about the state of this franchise.

Specifically, I was pondering just how horrifically bad this current team is on a weekly basis.  How utterly laughable they are at this point in Year One of the Great Mangini.

For whatever reason, my mind – unbeknownst to me -- started to wander back to that expansion season of 1999.

First of all, you know a season is teetering on the brink of going off the rails when the year "1999" comes to mind when you are looking for a valid comparison.

Secondly, "there's no way this team could be as bad as that team" I kept telling myself over and over and over again.

I mean, it's easy to sit back and watch the mind-numbing play of the first seven games and say, "damn, that's horrific".  But is it historically horrific?  Is this the worst team in the history of the formerly storied history of the Cleveland Browns?

After 24 hours of mulling over the thought that this team might be as bad as that team, I headed over to as there was no video evidence at my disposal -- I really wish I had saved those old VCR tapes instead of burning them in the Great E Pluribus Butchum Purge of 2001 – and began looking up the team statistics for both the most current and the earliest versions of the new Browns.

I looked.  And looked.  And looked.  Double- and triple-checked what I was seeing developing on my screen.

And, guess what?  I underestimated the stank that is the 2009 Cleveland Browns.

Here's what I found.  You may want to avert your eyes or drink.  Or both.

  2009 Team 1999 Team    
  Totals Rank   Totals Rank   ADV.
Total Off. 225.4 No. 31   235.1 No. 31   1999
Passing YPG 128.3 No. 31   163.2 No. 29   1999
Comp. % 49.3 No. 31   55.10% No. 24   1999
YPA - Pass 4.7 No. 32   6.1 No. 28   1999
Passing TDs 3 No. 31   19 No. 19   1999
Rush YPG 97.1 No. 25   71.9 No. 31   2009
YPA - Rush 3.7 No. 23   3.7 No. 20   Tie
Rushing TDs 1 No. 29   9 No. 20   1999
PPG 10.3 No. 30   13.6 No. 31   1999
Turnover Diff. -7 No. 28   -11 No. 28   1999
Yards Per Play 3.8 No. 32   4.3 No. 28   1999
First Downs PG 13.4 No. 31   13.8 No. 30   1999
Total Defense 414.9 No. 32   377.9 No. 31   1999
Passing YPG 244.3 No. 24   206.9 No. 21   1999
Completion % 60.10% No. 17   63.30% No. 31   2009
YPA - Pass 7.8 No. 25   6.6 No. 12   1999
Rushing YPG 170.6 No. 31   171 No. 31   2009
YPA -Rush 4.9 No. 31   4.5 No. 31   1999
Rushing TDs 10 No. 30   29 No. 31   2009
PPG 25.6 No. 27   27.3 No. 29   2009
Yards Per Play 6 No. 30   5.2 No. 21   1999
First Downs PG 22.7 No. 31   23 No. 31   2009

(Note: the 1999 statistics are for the entire season.)

In summation, the 1999 version of the Browns bests the 2009 Browns in 15 of 22 major statistical categories.  And they are tied in one of the other seven categories.

An expansion team that got screwed by the NFL in the run-up to their rebirth is – statistically – better than their eleven-year-old brethren are seven games in.  Granted, there are other variables that factor into this equation, but at the most primitive of levels, the stat sheets say that the ‘09 team lags woefully behind their ‘99 counterparts.

So, is this an indictment of the last ten years, or the first year of another rebuild?

A whole helluva lot of blame can be put on the former, but the statistical evidence is absolutely damning to the latter and any desire they have to continue on past this season.

In ten years, this team has gotten no better.  In fact, they have regressed to pathetic levels.

And that's an indictment on every last person in the eleven-plus years since Al Lerner cut the NFL a $530 million check, every single employee who's had a hand, a part, a role in "building" what we see on Sunday afternoons.

But, in the end, it's certainly no excuse for what Mangini & Company are doing to this organization.  You can't be statistically worse than an expansion team.  You can't.

Yet you are.

And here we are.  Again.

If it wasn't so laughable, it'd be sad.


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