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32 in 32: Cleveland Browns search for signs of life

"NFL Total Access" has launched its "32 in 32" series, breaking down the biggest subplots of every NFL team as the 2013 season approaches. Around The League will follow along and offer our own take. Up next: The Cleveland Browns.

  1. If you're 50 years old and call yourself a Browns fan, real-life questions are beginning to bubble up. Twenty years removed from the team's last playoff win, too many followers of this star-crossed franchise have passed off the earth without reward. With six full-time head coaches and 18 starting quarterbacks since 1999, Cleveland has become the league's blueprint for dismal Sundays. The new regime is tasked with "changing the culture," a code yet to be cracked in Berea.

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  1. On a positive note, this year's roster has more talent than any Browns team since the reboot. I especially like the stockpiling of pass rushers on defense, where Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious "Sharknado" Mingo are a good bet to hassle quarterbacks this season. Cleveland has been fried in its own division because of its inability to disrupt Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger. Ray Horton will have this defense attacking, and CEO Joe Banner went out of his way to provide his creative coordinator with enough toys to make that happen. Bank on it: This will be a top-10 unit in 2013.
  1. Here's what Browns general manager Mike Lombardi wrote about the team's West Coast offense under Pat Shurmur in 2011: "I sit in my (NFL Films) office in Mt Laurel, N.J., put the Browns' attack on my screen and call a friend who was a coach in the league, but is now in between successes. I tell my friend the personnel group, the formation, where the ball is located on the field and what hash mark and describe the motion -- if there is any -- and ask him to tell me the exact play that will be run. He is correct about 95 percent of the time. No lie. The Browns are so integrated into the West Coast system that their predictability is becoming legendary around the league."

Lombardi's hire caused a media firestorm in town, but he's dead on. The last regime spent two years jamming square pegs into round holes. Owner Jimmy Haslam described coach Rob Chudzinski's hire as a move toward an innovative attack built off the strengths of his players. In this thinking, there is hope.

  1. About those storm clouds looming over Pilot Flying J: It's premature to jump to conclusions, but Haslam's yet-to-be-decided fate will ripple through this organization for years to come. If he skates through the investigation unscathed, the Browns have a committed, passionate leader in place for days to come -- in essence, a bright future. If something uglier unfolds, this eternally badgered fan base still has miles to tread.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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