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Are the Browns a worst-to-first candidate?

Could Brandon Weeden lead the Browns to a division title or more?



Photo Attribution: USATSI

Photo Attribution: USATSI

I’ve never really had an NFL team.

I was born in Tulsa — which is ambitious enough for the Olympics, but sadly no pro football squad — and raised in Houston during the weird Oilers/Texans thing so I just never really adopted anybody. Those factors plus the fact that I never found the need to really root for anybody not wearing orange and black meant that I was resigned to fantasy rooting.

Then Brandon Weeden got drafted to the Browns and Josh Cooper got picked up (and somehow ended up his No. 2 receiver…again) and the Browns seemed like a team you could root for without being called a bandwagon fan. So I adopted them as my adult NFL squad and immediately regretted it when Weeden was almost suffocated by members of our military…

Anyway, they kind of stunk last year, but they stunk so much that they became a prime candidate to extend one of the coolest, most unbelievable, streaks in all of sports.

For each of the last 10 years at least one NFL team has gone from last place in its division one year to first place the next year. Here are the culprits (via Big Lead).

Teams that have done it

2003: Carolina Panthers (7-9)/Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
2004: Atlanta Falcons (5-11)/San Diego Chargers (4-12)
2005: Chicago Bears (5-11)/New York Giants (6-10)
2006: Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)/New Orleans Saints (3-13)/Baltimore Ravens (6-10)
2007: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
2008: Miami Dolphins (1-15)
2009: New Orleans Saints (8-8)
2010: Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)
2011: Houston Texans (6-10)
2012: Washington Redskins (5-11)

And here are your contenders this year and why I think each could or couldn’t.

2013 teams trying to do it

Bills — Do people really think EJ Manuel is good?

Jets — LOL

Browns — I really think this is a thing. Weeden will have to be much better than last year but their D is so good. I think they’re one of the three most likely.

Jaguars — Do people really think Blaine Gabbert is good?

Chiefs — I just don’t feel like an Alex Smith-led team can take down a Peyton Manning-led team for the AFC West.

Eagles — Chip Kelly + Michael Vick = ‘splosions.

Lions — So many big names (Stafford, Bush, Mega, Fairley, Suh), it’s hard to see them not being good.

Panthers — Cam’s the real deal but that division is filthy.

Saints —¬†Probably the favorite in Vegas to turn the trick this year.

Bucs — Is Josh Freeman the most “wait, I watched that guy in college, he’s a starting QB in the NFL” guy ever?

Cardinals — When Carson Palmer is the answer, the question is likely NSFW.

The one thing the Browns have going for them is that their division isn’t that great. The Ravens looked inept last night, the Steelers always feel like they’re one bad Roethlisberger decision from obscurity and the Bengals are feisty but not elite. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to think they can win their division like it does for, say, the Cardinals or Jags.

I think Weeden has a lot left in the tank and NFL folks will start saying what we were all saying after that 40-yard strike to 81 on the run in that ’09 Colorado game.

This dude is good.

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