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End Around: Browns' sad story must turn ... someday

If it's true that all good things must eventually come to an end, then logic dictates that the inverse of this adage must also ring true.


The Browns aren't going to suck forever. They just can't. Eventually they'll find their quarterback -- really, this has always been a quarterback problem above all else -- and Cleveland will claw its way out of irrelevance.

Only irrelevance isn't really the right word for this team. The Browns have been plenty relevant -- just not for the reasons you'd want. They're the most famous bad team in America. When the news came down on Monday that Robert Griffin III was headed to injured reserve with a shoulder injury, the reaction on Twitter was immediate and overwhelming.

And a little bit surprising, too. My timeline filled up with all the predictable zingers, but there was also a sense of legitimate sympathy for the Browns and their fans. I marked it down in my notebook: "11:24 A.M. PT - HISTORY: INTERNET EXPRESSES FEELINGS OF COMPASSION NOT HARAMBE-RELATED."

While it was a surprise to learn the Internet may have a soul, nobody should've been caught off guard when Griffin was hurt. His tendency to sustain serious injuries has been the only consistent thing about his career since that golden rookie year in 2012. But it was the timing of it that felt cruel. All the Browns and their fans want is to not be a joke -- but the cosmic bits never let up.

This one was a doozy. It started way back during draft season, after the Rams jumped ahead of the Browns -- who held the No. 2 overall pick -- in a blockbuster trade for the No. 1 overall pick, and it became clear that Jeff Fisher and Co. were going to tie their future to Jared Goff. (We'll see how that works out.) The Browns were hot on Goff and decidedly less so on the consensus No. 2 pick in the draft, a trash-can trick-shot maestro named Carson Wentz.

So the Browns, the famously quarterback-deficient Browns, surprised everybody and traded out of their quarterback pick. The Eagles slid into the second spot and selected Wentz.

A month earlier, the Browns had signed Griffin. What followed was the obligatory swell of puff pieces telling us that quarterback whisperer Hue Jackson was just the man to fix the erstwhile wunderkind. By the end of the preseason, we were reading that RGIII wasn't just a patch, but a possible long-term solution.

Then came Week 1. The Browns faced the Eagles (of course!), and Wentz was the surprise starter for Philly (naturally!). The Browns should have been able to solve a rookie who missed almost all of the preseason with a rib injury. Only they didn't. Wentz looked like a player, and the Eagles coasted.

RGIII still looked like RGIII, and then he took that shot. Less than 24 hours later, the Browns were on the canvas once again.

I need a super sad Radiohead song right now. Give me a second ...


Here's the upshot in all this: Even with RGIII destined to be another ghost foreman in the Factory of Sadness, and even with the Browns' perpetual QB unrest about to head into a historically grim realm, Cleveland's rebuilding project is not in a terrible place. That's good! Well, this season, they'll be terrible -- maybe not as bad as Billick thinks, but pretty friggin' bad. Cody Kessler will end up starting three to 13 games. I've yet to meet a Cody who is a leader of men.

But this is very much about the future. Hue seems to have the right attitude for the job -- he even had his own spin on the Tony Sparano "You bury da bawl, you bury da past!" motivational method -- while Sashi Brown continues to accumulate draft picks to put toward a massive roster overhaul. Jason Fitzgerald of put it well in a recent look at the team's finances: "Cleveland has essentially nothing invested in the 2016 season."

This is not the type of thing a season-ticket holder wants to hear, but it can work with the right people in charge. There are examples in the league right now. The Jaguars had faith in their braintrust and successfully built a talented roster on both sides of the ball. The same can be said for the Raiders, a team nearly as inept as the Browns in the past 15 years, who are now armed with a core of young talent that may put them in contention this season.

In both cases, a successful rebuild can be directly attributed to patience at the top. The Browns have had five coaches and four general managers in the past six years. The Jaguars went 7-25 in the first two seasons under general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley but held tight. The Raiders exhibited even more restraint in their front office, sticking with GM Reggie McKenzie after an 11-37 run in his first three years at the helm.

I should add that both those promising teams believe they found their quarterback. Jacksonville's Blake Bortles and Oakland's Derek Carr have the looks of franchise passers. In a worst-case scenario for the Browns, they had their guy in Carson Wentz and Schruted it. For the sake of sanity in Cleveland, let's work under the assumption that's not the case.

"I don't know if there's going to be a ton of struggle before there's a ton of great times, but I don't worry about people not being happy right now," Jackson said Wednesday. "I'm going to do the best job I can with our staff and these players and we're going to keep working at it.

"My point is eventually they will love me because we're going to win. We're going to win a championship here for the Cleveland Browns."

Referencing a Super Bowl title and the Cleveland Browns in the same sentence may sound like a shortcut to being institutionalized, but you need a dreamer like Jackson in the big chair. This is a gargantuan task, and it could get worse before it gets better, but you need to think that way.

The Chicago Cubs are heavy favorites to win the World Series. Leicester City won a Premier League title. Hell, the Cavs already broke the Cleveland curse. All bad times come to an end. It's not crazy to think that the Browns may eventually find a better kind of relevance.

We're just not there yet.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus and check out his stuff on the End Around.

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