By Danny Cox
The 2014 season was one that was filled with a lot of hype, hope and promises that things would be better for the Cleveland Browns.
The team had drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel and it brought a ton of attention to them. New head coach Mike Pettine brought a lot of knowledge and fire with him that looked like it would turn the team around. Big-name free agents – Ben Tate, Miles Austin, Nate Burleson, Donte Whitner – brought forth a lot of great new talent.
Then, things got a bit bumpy. Cleveland’s No. 1 wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for the season, but they had the talent in place to pick up the slack. Things were still looking pretty good.
In the opening game of the season, the Browns were getting manhandled by the Pittsburgh Steelers before putting together a monster comeback. They lost on a last-second field goal, but there was no disappointment as they showed a lot of positive signs in the loss.
Come week two, the Browns welcomed Drew Brees and the high-powered New Orleans Saints to town. A shocking 26-24 victory made people sit up and take notice. Over the course of the next three games, the Browns went 2-1 with a revenge victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
From there, the Browns dealt with numerous injuries to the defense and with star tight end Jordan Cameron missing a number of games due to a concussion issue. Still, Cleveland was able to win four of their next six games and in an incredibly impressive fashion and now Josh Gordon was back.
That was when things turned from bad to worse in a hurry.
A blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills is one that some could overlook. The next week, the Browns lost by just one point to the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts and that could be excused. Two losses in a row though, and a change needed to be made so Johnny Manziel was finally given the starting nod over Brian Hoyer.
In his first career NFL start, the Browns got blow out by the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 30-0. The next week, Manziel went out for the season with a hamstring injury. By the end of that loss to the Carolina Panthers, Brian Hoyer was lost for the season as well due to injury.
For the season finale, undrafted rookie quarterback Connor Shaw was the starter. Josh Gordon had been suspended again. Reports of Manziel holding a wild party two nights before the finale and having numerous Browns players there started floating around.
From 7-4 and heading for the playoffs to finishing 7-9 without numerous players even on the field and even more questions about the stability of the team; it was not the way the Browns wanted 2014 to go. That’s obvious as everyone wants a winning season and a spot in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, that is not at all what happened and things just kept going bad.
Now, there is another quarterback controversy on the way. It appears as if Gordon doesn’t want to return to Cleveland. Of all those big free agent pick-ups? Ben Tate and Nate Burleson are already gone from the team. The passing defense is great, but the Browns gave up the most rushing yards per game in the entire NFL for 2014.
So many changes need to be made, but that’s what the organization thought they did for this season. They worked for a little while, but now changes need to happen that can prevent another collapse in 2015.
Hope is still there and the Dawg Pound has positive feelings for next year already. The only problem now is that the uncertainty from the last few years is back again and it’s frustrating, but the Browns look to be heading in the right direction.
For more Browns news and updates, visit Browns Central.
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.