NFL Analysis: A Year Later, Browns Much Better

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A year ago today, the Browns released quarterback Derek Anderson, a move that was expected as the team acquired Seneca Wallace from Seattle earlier in that same week. Days later, the team shipped away former first-round draft picks Brady Quinn and Kamerion Wimbley. They picked up Peyton Hillis and a sixth-round draft pick for the former Notre Dame quarterback and a third-round pick in exchange for Wimbley, one they later used to select Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.

Out with the old, in with the new.

That was a crazy week for Browns fans as some were still holding out hope that Quinn could figure it out. We wanted so badly for it to work, but aside from a show he put on against Detroit (and they are, after all, Detroit) there was very little that suggested he could excel at this level. While the sample size with McCoy is small, he’s given Browns fans more reason to be optimistic than Quinn ever did between the lines.

Hillis was terrific in 2010-11 and instantly became a fan favorite for his rugged style. I do worry, because this is Cleveland and one-year phenoms like Anderson have got us excited only to bring us back down to earth before. Hillis’ style, the same one that we love, makes you wonder how long he can hold up. He sure does take a pounding. But this site is for positive thoughts, so let’s just hope he can repeat his performance again in 2011-12. Plus, we should have Montario Hardesty back in the fold, and if he can get his knee close to where it was, he should be a nice supplement to the running game.

McCoy does little things, and I think we all felt much better about our chances when No. 12 was in the ballgame. Fans want a quarterback like Bernie Kosar so badly in this town that we’re lovedrunk with a rookie that threw six touchdowns and nine interceptions.

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel now. We saw things last year that were encouraging, and those trades a year ago really stamped that a new regime was in town. They then went out and traded for Sheldon Brown and Chris Gocong and drafted young playmakers like Joe Haden and T.J. Ward. Mid-round selections like Hardesty and McCoy, and even guard Shaun Lauvao, gave us an upgrade at positions that badly needed them.

The Browns might have finished last season with the same 5-11 record that we had in 2009-10, but we saw glimpses. The Browns have some players now that look like professionals. Undoubtedly we need more, and hopefully they can get this collective bargaining straightened out so we can fiddle with the roster, but we’re certainly going to have a draft and we can pick up some more pieces there.

The point is, I feel much better on March 9, 2011, than I did on March 9, 2010. That was a tough week for Browns fans as we cut a Pro Bowl quarterback and two first-round picks, but hopefully it was a ‘one step back to go two steps forward’ kind of deal.

And hopefully we keep going forward from here.

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