Despite another dismal season, veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown believes the Browns are not far from turning the corner and becoming successful.
Brown's view seemingly reflected the overall tone in the locker room today as most of the players prepared to pack their bags and leave town for the next few months. The Browns' offseason workout program begins on April 16.
The Browns' 4-12 record suggests they have a long way to go before they can compete in the AFC North, especially because the Baltimore Ravens (12-4), the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) and the Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) have all qualified for the playoffs this season. Still, Brown said the organization has the right foundation in place on its roster and coaching staff to reverse its fortunes.
"Very close," said Brown, who's pictured below. "One or two plays each game. You just have to find your playmakers, and they just have to understand the sense of urgency and make the plays.
"I didn’t tell you this last year. I thought we were way off last year from a lot of other things that we were having to deal with, but I think this organization is heading in the right direction."
Veteran kicker Phil Dawson also weighed in.
"We were in a lot of games," Dawson said. "It's death by inches, though. How are you going to look at that? Are we that close, or is that just the nature of the league? It depends on your personality, how you’re going to view that. In my little world, if my plant foot misses the spot by a quarter-inch, I miss the kick. That will probably tell you how I look at it. Everybody looks at themselves critically and figures out how they can improve. If we do that, now these close games are coming out in our favor. Hopefully that's the way guys respond to it."
Brown said Pat Shurmur, whose rookie season as a head coach ended Sunday with the Browns' 13-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, is the right man to lead the franchise to a turnaround.
"I think he did a tremendous job dealing with being a head coach for the first time," Brown said. "Everybody thinks it’s an easy job. Everybody wants to sit in a room and say, 'I can do this better. I can do that better.' He dealt with the situations to the best of my knowledge the best he could, and he kept this football team fighting. And for me, that's how I judge a head coach. If a football team goes out there and competes their tail off week in and week out through thick and thin, which it was very thick this year, but we didn’t quit. So that tells me the leader is in place, and the guys believe in him, and they will fight for him.
"He definitely can make a jump (in his second season), but the most important thing is the players have to make a jump and the players have to make the plays. It doesn’t matter if we call 50 runs a game or 50 passes a game. If we’re calling 50 runs, I wouldn’t want to be a receiver. If we’re calling 50 passes, I wouldn’t want to be a running back. It doesn't matter how we do it. It’s just when your number is called, you do it."
The Browns have the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and many believe drafting a franchise quarterback could spearhead their resurrection. So is Brown waiting for Baylor University quarterback Robert Griffin III to become the savior of the organization?
"I'm definitely not," Brown said. "And if you are, you're crazy.
"If you’re depending on a draft pick to come in here and change your life, then you're kidding yourself. This game is too hard and there’s too big of a jump."
Instead of banking on reinforcements, Brown said the team's young nucleus needs to develop and improve. He believes success will follow.
"Everybody needs to play better," Brown said. "When you lose close games, you can go back and point to maybe one or two drops or one or two miscues. When things like that happen, I bet you go back and you say, '(It's) a young player that hasn't been in this situation, hasn't experienced it.' Well, now he's experienced it, and he won't do it again."