For the long suffering Cleveland Browns' fans now sitting at 2-7 -- fresh off a third straight double-digit loss, this time to in-state rival Cincinnati on national television -- the valid question becomes ...
Where do we go from here?
I would suggest a time-honored phrase -- "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging" -- as a good start.
I am sure the steady drumbeat of fire the coach, fire the GM or, heck, just fire someone will resound loudly on the Cleveland and national airwaves and in columns. In my opinion, you'd only be making it worse by continuing to dig.
Since the Browns were reconstituted in 1999, they have had three owners, eight head coaches and half a dozen general managers and personnel directors. More recently, they have fired Eric Mangini after two years, Pat Shurmur after two years and Rob Chudzinski after just one year. By all means, go ahead and fire Mike Pettine after just two seasons. That seems to be working real well for you ...
What is the definition of insanity? Repeating the same act over and over again while expecting a different outcome.
Cleveland, just stop digging!
I know the numbers don't look good over the last 16 games. Pettine and the Browns are 3-13 and their offense has rookie-type numbers of 58 percent completions, 16 TDs (to 17 interceptions) and 44 sacks.
But if you look at their first eight games under Pettine, it is a different story. If you take the eight games and expand it into an entire season, the Browns would be 10-6 with 20 TDs (to eight interceptions) and just 28 sacks.
Start over, but do it with Pettine and GM Ray Farmer in place. The Browns fans are worn out with the "new coach, new approach" theme -- at least they should be. And you have to ask yourself, who are you going to bring in? Jon Gruden? Bill Cowher? Bill Parcells? Tony Dungy? None of them are going to take this job. Let's remember, Pettine only got the job after both Adam Gase and Josh McDaniels removed themselves from consideration. A pretty telling move, considering both of them preferred to remain as offensive coordinators rather than to become head coach in Cleveland.
Even still. Football has been, is now and will always be about talent -- and more specifically, the talent at the quarterback position. And the key is identifying that talent in the first year. What I am advocating is you treat this like the first year. Choosing an NFL quarterback is a 50/50 proposition. They have drafted four first-round quarterbacks since 1999, two of which are no longer in the league (Tim Couch and Brady Quinn), while the other two (Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel) have all but removed any doubt that they are not starting-caliber players in the NFL. So, you were on the wrong side of the equation with the last four quarterback selections ... As they say in baseball, you are due! Maybe you will be on the positive side of choosing between a fairly large group of quarterbacks in the 2016 draft: Paxton Lynch (from Memphis), Jared Goff (Cal), Connor Cook (Michigan State) and maybe Christian Hackenberg (Penn State). Just don't do it with the 22nd overall pick (Quinn in 2007, Weeden in 2012, and Manziel in 2014). What was the definition of insanity again?
In fairness, Manziel was better last night. Kind of. He went from 10-for-18 (55 percent) with 0 TDs and two INTs and converting just 1-of-10 on third down last year against Cincinnati to a night where he was 15-for-33 (45 percent) with one TD and converted four of 13 third-down attempts. At least they are in a position to determine, over the next seven games, if Manziel is an NFL player or not. Although, based on their actions, I think they have already decided.
While Cleveland was selecting Manziel with the 22nd pick, the Raiders (maybe the only organization that had dug a bigger hole than Cleveland) hit the jackpot with the 36th overall pick in Derek Carr. The QB who beat the Browns last night, Andy Dalton, was the 35th pick of the 2011 draft. Both were second-round picks -- probably where Manziel should have been drafted in the first place.
Cleveland, do yourself a favor and just stop digging!
Follow Brian Billick on Twitter @coachbillick.