Some Browns games are more “fun” to write about than others. I put “fun” in quotation marks because none of them are fun to write about. But some are at least funny or quirky or maddening or emotional. The last two weeks, the Browns have lost convincingly and uninterestingly to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals. These were toothache games where the Browns did some “quote-unquote” good things and sort-of, kind-of, maybe-but-not-really had a chance to win the fourth quarter if this had gone right and that had gone wrong and Superman had come and whatever.
These two games were complete wastes of time, really. The Browns weren’t going to win either, and the good signs don’t add up to anything, and people are muttering the same nonsense about them not quitting and forget all that. Let’s do some math instead.
On the PosCast last week, Mike Schur and I wrestled with what seemed a spectacular statistic in USA Today’s “For The Win” column. They had said that in order for Bill Belichick to match the winning-percentage (or, if you prefer, losing percentage) of Cleveland coach Hue Jackson, he would have to lose 610,000 games in a row.
This seemed utterly ridiculous to us, but hey they printed it, and we thought it would make a fun topic on the PosCast. As usual, we did no prep work before the actual recording. So the minute we started talking about it we realized — Mike more strongly — that this statistic had to be wrong. There was no way that it could possibly be 610,000 games. So then we thought, “Maybe it’s 61,000 games,” but that’s obviously very wrong too.
Here is how you do the math.
Hue Jackson’s record now is 1-26. That is amazing in so many ways. Relish it: You might never see it again. How often do you think a team would let a coach keep going with a 1-26 record?
Anyway: 1-26 is a .037 winning percentage. That’s 1 divided by 27.
Bill Belichick’s record is 246-117, a .677 winning percentage. That’s a lot better. So our question is how many consecutive games would Belichick have to lose in order to have a .037 winning percentage.
First thing you do is divide 246 by the winning percentage of .037.
That number (247/.037) rounded up, is 6,648. That is the total number of games that Belichich would have to coach. OK?
Now, we take 6,648 games and subtract the 246 games he’s won. That’s 6,402.
So his record would have to be 246-6,402 in order to have a .037 winning percentage.
Now we take the 6,402 losses he would need and subtract the 117 losses he already has. That’s 6,285 games in a row that Bill Belichick would have to lose in a row for him to match Hue Jackson’s losing percentage. That is 392 consecutive 0-16 seasons and the first 13 games of the 393rd season.
When I texted Michael Schur this number, he wrote back: “Probably not going to happen.”
No. Probably not.
* * *
Cleveland’s second-year wide receiver Corey Coleman dropped a touchdown pass on Sunday. There are different levels of dropped touchdown passes in the NFL, obviously. A Level 10 drop would be something like what happened to Jackie Smith in the Super Bowl — you are standing alone in the end zone, the ball is thrown to you, it bounces off your chest and falls to the ground. And Verne Lundquist shouts out, “O bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.”
Coleman’s drop was more like a Level 9. He had run by the defender and DeShone Kizer — in what was admittedly a rare moment — threw a beautifully weighted pass that dropped over the defender and right into Coleman’s hands. But to say the ball went through Coleman’s hands would not be exactly right; it was more like he awkwardly reached for the pass, as if he was not quite sure if it was a football or a bowling pin or napsack filled with gold medalions falling from the sky. He was more likely to befriend the football and teach it how to do advanced mathematics than catch it.
His momentary uncertainty about how to catch an actual touchdown pass was disturbing for many reasons but mostly Corey Coleman is kind of a touchstone for this Browns organization. As you already know, these analytical Browns do not like drafting players. They like acquiring draft picks instead. The last two years they were in the draft position to take quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson and in both cases they traded out of those spots in order to get more draft picks. You’ve heard that expression: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
The Browns expression is “A bird in the hand is worth a first-round bird next year, a third-round bird in 2019, and a fifth-round in 2018, and next year’s first-round bird might be worth a lower first-round bird next year plus a fourth-round bird in 2020 and it’s possible to package that fourth-round bird along with another first-round bird for two-second round birds and a conditional bird in 2021 …”
So, yes, Corey Coleman is a rare bird for the Browns, a player they actually took in the first round. He was the 15th pick in the draft last year out of Baylor, the first wide receiver chosen in that draft, and as such he offers special insight into a question we still do not know how to answer: How good is this Browns’ management is at scouting football players?
The signs are … not promising, no. Corey Coleman has been injured a lot in his young career and he has not exactly had Tom Brady throwing passes his way. So it’s not fair to make any final judgements. But you can say this with some confidence: He isn’t exactly great. He’s kind of small, fairly brittle and has dropped a lot of passes. He’s got good speed so every now and again he runs by a defender, but generally speaking he doesn’t seem to get open all that much.
I realize that “Catch Percentage” is an imperfect statistic — it takes actual catches and divides it by number of times the receiver was targeted — but it might mean something that of the 181 receivers and tight ends who have caught 25 passes the last two seasons, Coleman ranks 177th in catch percentage. He has caught just 45.7% of the passes thrown his way, and yes some of that is on the dreadful parade of quarterbacks who have been throwing those passes. But I mean at some point, you have to beat your man and catch the ball. The Browns drafted him 15th overall to do that. He ain’t doing it.
Coleman was last year’s first-round skill position pick. This year the Browns took Myles Garrett with the first overall pick — he was the consensus choice, they really didn’t have another option, but he looks promising — and then later in the first round they took safety Jabril Peppers and tight end David Njoku. Both played terribly Sunday as they have all season.
Peppers committed the most significant penalty of the game, though to be fair to him it seemed a terrible call. He was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver late in the game when it looked like what he actually did was hit a receiver and knock the ball free, the thing a safety is supposed to do. But just as Browns fans were building righteout ourtage in defense of Peppers, he promptly got run over by Bengals ball carriers on the next two plays. It is hard to focus too much on Peppers being wronged when he’s looked entirely overmatched all season.
Njoku, meanwhile, committed what I believe was the 4,398th offensive pass interference penalty of his young career. They didn’t stop the game to give him the football.
If these are the players you actually get when you draft, maybe trading draft picks is the wiser play.
* * *
“It’s a man’s game,” (Christian) Kirksey said. “Men don’t quit. Men don’t fold. So I was just encouraging the guys to keep grinding, keep trying to move forward, don’t get down on yourself, don’t hold your head.”
It’s one thing that you can point to with this roster the last two years. For all the flaws, the one thing that no one can say is that they have given up.
NO ONE can say that, Dan? NO ONE? OK, you know what, let me say it. They’ve given up. I don’t really know that they’ve given up, I don’t even know what giving up would mean in a real sense, but I don’t like the construction of that sentence: “One thing that that no one can say.” It is one thing that people CAN say and SHOULD say as many times as they like. This Browns team is 1-26 the last two years. Of course they have given up. The Browns have given up. They have totally given up. They have completely given up. They absolutely given up. They have quit. They have packed it in. They have stopped trying. They have GIVEN UP.
Here’s what I don’t get about the whole “At least the Browns haven’t given up,” line of analysis: How much different would it look if they really had given up? I mean, would they not show up for games? Would they forget to put on their uniforms and come instead wearing raggedy old sweatpants and T-shirts? Would you have to call players at halftime because they were at home eating chips and salsa.
“Dude, what are you doing?”
“Don’t call me Dude. I told you before. I’m watching last week’s Kevin Can Wait.”
“Are you not coming to the game? Cause we, like, really need you.”
“Nah, man. I quit already.”
“You can’t quit. We need you. We love you.”
“All right, fine, let me pause it. I’ll come now.”
Would they just try running their own plays just for the heck of it (kind of like Kizer did at the goal line with 15 seconds left in the half against Detroit?). Would they sloppily commit the most turnovers in the NFL? Would they lose all eleven games they play in a season?
What powerful indication is there that the Browns have not given up? Their promptness? Giving up, if that’s even a thing, is not easily seen. Giving up might represent not putting in the same heightened effort as an opponent, not making the sort of deeply considered decisions that other teams make, not playing up to your potential, not believing entirely in yourself or your teammates, not doing everything possible to win a game. Heck, most Browns fans (and people in Browns management?) at this point, even some of the hopeful ones, are rooting for the winless season so that the Browns can lock down the No. 1 pick next year. Just think how many future draft picks THAT could yield!
Some might call that “Tanking.”
Another phrase for that is GIVING UP.