Friday, September 2, 2016

Staggering stats

Final statistics for the Browns’ exhibition season are in and accurately reflect the record: Four games, four losses against four National Football Conference opponents.

The stats are sad beyond belief and serve as a portent of what lies ahead. Both sides of the football are culpable as the club registered lows in futility in numerous statistical categories.

And yes, before you think I have taken premature leave of my senses, I realize those four games were meaningless from a record standpoint. But at the same time, there is a certain amount of pragmatism that cannot be ignored.

Read the following stats and weep, not for a franchise that can’t get out of its own way, but for the fans of that franchise who deserve so much better than they are about to receive.

First, the offense and it is, indeed, very offensive.

It produced an NFL-low 44 points. In so doing, it amassed five touchdowns, 51 first downs (10 with the help of a penalty), 856 total offensive yards (214 a game), was 12-of-48 on third down (25%), averaged 81 yards on the ground, 133 yards through the air, surrendered 17 sacks and owned the ball for 24 minutes and 27 seconds a game.

To be fair, there was some improvement along the way. After possessing the ball for a grand total of just 40 minutes and 17 seconds in the first two exhibitions, the Cleveland offense improved to 57 minutes and 11 seconds in the final two.

Improvement in first-down production was tortoise-like, if not downright embarrassing. Hue Jackson’s offense went from 11 in the first game to 12 in the second to 13 in the third to a robust 15 in Thursday night’s finale loss to the Chicago Bears.

It was believed defense would be a problem for this team heading into the regular season. Based on what we’re seen thus far, offense has joined its defensive brethren atop the worry category.

Speaking of the defense, let’s take a closer look. And yes, it is equally offensive in a statistical sense.

It gave up 90 first downs (22½ a game), faced 69 third-down situations and whiffed on 33 of them (47.8%), surrendered 374 yards a game (150 on the ground, 224 through the air), picked off one pass, sacked opposing quarterbacks only seven times and was on the field for an average of 35 minutes and 33 seconds.

From a team standpoint, the Browns committed 30 penalties (not including those that were declined) for 249 yards, a direct reflection on team discipline. Its minus-48 in point differential barely beats the New Orleans Saints, the only other NFL team with a winless exhibition record.

It is any wonder national observers on the National Football League see nothing but gloom and doom for the Browns this season? There is absolutely nothing on which they can justify being even remotely sanguine about their chances.

Some statistics lie. These do not.

One more stat, this one trivial, to digest. Before this season, the Browns only twice in their long history went winless through an exhibition season.

In 1972, they were 0-6 in meaningless games, but finished 10-4 during the regular season and lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in the first round of the playoffs And in 2008, they were 0-4 and finished 4-12 in what would be Romeo Crennel’s final season as head coach.

Draw your own conclusions.

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