There's reason for hope, assuming the Browns' collection of rookies and relative newbies continue to develop. There's also rightful optimism surrounding the growth of quarterback Brandon Weeden. We don't expect to wave good-bye to Cleveland's playoff hopes this quickly in 2013, but that does nothing to solve today's 1-6 record.
What went wrong
Too much of the same. Whatever progress the Browns made in 2010 didn't stick in 2011, and the pattern holds true one year later. Last year's 10th-ranked defense is this year's 27th-ranked problem child, bleeding yardage on a weekly basis.
Joe Haden is a bona fide talent at cornerback, but he sidetracked the Browns with a four-game suspension that left a fledgling secondary exposed. Phil Taylor is sorely missed on the defensive line, but that's the problem: Better teams bring the next guy up and move forward. These young Browns haven't walked through the fire together.
On offense, Weeden's growth has been stunted by a group of receivers that can't hold onto the ball. Drops have cost this team at least one victory and arguably two more. Everybody in C-Town is learning on the job.
What went right
Cleveland might have a quarterback. Weeden has shown toughness. He's bounces back from errors and isn't afraid to step into the pocket and deliver the football. His style of play will lead to the occasional interception, but he isn't timid with his throws. Weeden is well-suited for the AFC North. If his wideouts gain maturity, something special might be in the works. Trent Richardson, if he can stay healthy, is a banger in the backfield. There's a lot to like out of these two young additions.
What still matters
The Browns aren't making the postseason, but there's still time to make noise in the AFC North. We see more speed and athleticism on this roster than at any time in the past 10 seasons. It would be a shame to blow the team to pieces, but everyone's job is on the line.
What changes are coming?
Jimmy Haslam III isn't a wilting flower. Cleveland's new owner didn't take kindly to coach Pat Shurmur opting for a uninspiring punt on fourth-and-1 in Sunday's tight loss to the Indianapolis Colts. CBS cameras repeatedly pointed to Haslam high above, eyes burning, mind churning, fists grinding -- the future is a mystery.
Change comes every season to Cleveland. This time around the organizational transformation will cut deep. It's audition time, but the team's 1-6 start is a weight on the current regime. Getting waxed by the rest of the AFC isn't what Haslam envisioned when he dropped $1 billion on the franchise.
As Marty Schottenheimer told his young Browns squad so many moons ago: "There's a gleam, men. There's a gleam. Let's get the gleam."