In 2011, new Philadelphia quarterback Vince Young was asked by the media what he thought of the recently assembled pieces for the Eagles.
If you’re looking for a tweet to ruin someone’s Friday… Today in 2011 Vince Young called the Eagles the Dream Team. pic.twitter.com/QIGvgnq8AE
— John Foley (@2008Philz) July 30, 2021
Young smiled and answered candidly.
“Dream team,” Young said with a chuckle. “From Nnamdi [Asomugha] to [Dominique Rodgers-]Cromartie, to Jason [Babin] to myself,“ Young told the media. “I know they are going to do some more things. . . . It’s just beautiful to see where we’re trying to go.”
Young made this statement not long after he arrived in Philadelphia after spending five years in Tennessee.
He wasn’t necessarily mistaken in his comment.
In 2010, Philly finished the season 10-6 and lost to the Packers 21-16 in the Wild Card Round.
The Eagles rode the arm of quarterback Michael Vick, who had been named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2010.
Going into the offseason, the Philly front office focused on the team getting past the first round and into the Super Bowl in 2011.
They needed better starters on both sides of the ball as well as depth.
By the end of the summer, it looked like the team had struck gold with the number of high profile free agents they acquired.
The season began and the bottom fell out.
What was once a promising season culminated in a .500 record and the Eagles missed the postseason completely.
What happened to Philadelphia that season is nothing new.
One of the most difficult things to do in sports, especially professional sports, is build a team.
Certain moves may look good on paper, but nothing is guaranteed.
Injuries, egos, lack of discipline, disagreements with play calling and lack of camaraderie can spell doom to even the most promising team.
The 2011 Eagles found this out first-hand and they became the recent poster child for over-hyped team expectations.
'Dream teams' don't always win. Ask Vince Young and the Eagles. https://t.co/bLG7q8Kyq5 pic.twitter.com/vn2RYtnolW
— Yahoo Sports NFL (@YahooSportsNFL) July 5, 2016
Unfortunately, it looks like the 2021 Browns are headed in this direction as well.
A dream season that looked good on paper in August has found Cleveland at the bottom of the AFC North in November.
There are still a few months remaining, but the Browns play so far does not bode well for the rest of the season.
What makes the 2011 Eagles and the 2021 Browns an interesting study is that both teams were hyped nationally as immediate Super Bowl contenders.
The hype stemmed from their very notable free agent signings (including two of the biggest names during their respective years) and the fact that those free agents were being added to an already strong roster.
Will the Browns season end like the 2011 Eagles season ended?
Here is a look at the similarities and differences between the two clubs.
Philly’s goal was to get the team over the hump and into the Super Bowl.
Their 2010 squad was pretty good, but it was obvious they needed to get better to contend.
The Eagles 2010 offense ended the year ranked third overall while their defense was ranked 21st.
Obviously, to compete in 2011, they needed help on the defensive side of the ball along with adding a little depth to the offense.
In 2020, the Browns made the postseason after an 18 year absence and an 11-5 record.
During the Wild Card Round, Cleveland pounded division rival Pittsburgh before advancing to the Divisional Round where they lost by five points to the Chiefs.
Last season, the Browns offense was ranked 14th in the league while the defense was ranked 21st.
Cleveland could move the ball on the ground and Baker Mayfield had a good season as well.
However, because of injuries, the franchise was without some of their offensive linemen and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for the playoffs.
It was apparent the team needed a few more spare parts for depth on the offensive side of the ball.
However, where the Browns really needed help was on defense.
Besides Myles Garrett, the defense could not sustain a consistent pass rush.
Most QB knockdowns by a defense in 2020…#Steelers – 80#Ravens – 77#Buccaneers – 68#Saints – 67#Chiefs, #Seahawks – 66
Fewest by a defense…#49ers – 39#Packers – 38#Colts – 37#Browns, #Lions – 35
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) June 5, 2021
The linebackers and secondary were a mess because of injuries, lack of depth and not enough talent.
If Cleveland’s goal was to contend for a championship in 2021, they needed to aggressively sign veterans in free agency.
Every franchise’s goal is to compete for a championship.
However, only a few teams are truly in a position to address needs to get them closer to their goal.
Both the 2010 Eagles and 2020 Browns were such teams.
They were playoff participants who felt they were just a few pieces from a championship.
Theoretically, their additions should have helped get them there.
The Eagles didn’t waste any time and got to work.
During the spring and summer of 2011, they signed a bevy of highly touted free agents that they could plug-in immediately.
Among the notables were: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (cornerback, formerly of the Cardinals); Ronnie Brown (running back, Dolphins); Evan Mathis (guard, Bengals); Steve Smith (receiver, Giants); Jason Babin (defensive end, Titans); Cullen Jenkins (defensive tackle/end, Packers); Nnamdi Asomugha (corner, Raiders); Vince Young (quarterback, Titans).
There were other free agents, but this was the cream of the crop for the Eagles.
Asomugha was thought to be the pick of the litter.
On this day in 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha to a 5 year $60 million contact. pic.twitter.com/DimmG701R8
— Word On The Birds (@WordOnTheBirds) July 29, 2021
He was a highly sought after free agent pursued by numerous teams.
In eight years with the Raiders, he had been a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-team All-Pro, including in 2010.
Young had been one of the best college ball players in history before being named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008.
He was released by Tennessee after disagreements with the team during the 2010 season.
Young was signed by the Eagles strictly to serve as Vick’s backup.
All of these free agents had been Pro Bowlers except for Jenkins and Mathis (although Jenkins had won a Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010 and Mathis would become a Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion after leaving Philly).
To help them reach the Super Bowl in 2021, the Browns were busy this spring and summer collecting an assortment of quality free agents. Among the notables were: John Johnson III (safety, Rams); Takk McKinley (defensive end, Atlanta); Troy Hill (corner, Rams); Anthony Walker (linebacker, Colts); Malik Jackson (defensive tackle, Eagles) and Jadeveon Clowney (defensive end, Titans).
Browns General Manager Andrew Berry talked about the organization’s thought process after the signings.
“The general mindset entering free agency any year is to try to be opportunistic and address improving all areas of the roster. I think we were in a position where we had enough flexibility from a cap perspective where if we felt there was a player who aligned with our needs, if their skillset matched what we want to do within our scheme and they fit the profile of smart, tough, accountable, young, durable, then we can go aggressively and attack that player.”
Only Clowney and Jackson were Pro Bowlers before arriving in Cleveland.
Johnson and Hill were considered steals, but the addition of Clowney put Browns fans and the football world into a frenzy.
At long last, Cleveland had a perfect book-end to Garrett.
the #BROWNS sign clowney!!!!! pic.twitter.com/CuJXKPP1t8
— Sarah Coldiron (@sjcoldiron) April 14, 2021
While not every team was pursuing Clowney, he was still considered a prize free agent.
After arriving in town, Clowney commented on the signing.
“I get to play with other great players beside me,” Clowney said. “That was basically it: who I can play with and who can help me get to further on in my career.”
What Happened Next?
With all these high profile free agents and talent for miles, one would think that both the 2011 Eagles and 2021 Browns would take the next step.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t (and hasn’t) been the case.
Right out of the gate, the Eagles tore through Baltimore in Week 1 of the 2011 season, winning 31-13.
All the new pieces looked like they were going to fit perfectly and confidence was sky high.
In Week 2, Philly lost to the Falcons by four.
Then, they lost the next three games after that.
By mid-October, the Eagles were 2-4.
After their bye week, Philly beat Dallas then promptly lost four out of their next five games.
As December dawned, the Dream Team was 4-8.
As if to salvage a little self respect, the Eagles reeled off four straight wins to end the year 8-8.
Derrick Rose calls the Knicks a "Super Team."
The Philadelphia Eagles 2011 "Dream Team" agrees. pic.twitter.com/bM4Qqc8iuL
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) July 22, 2016
That record was two games worse than in 2010. Their second place finish meant they would not qualify for the playoffs.
Overall, Philly’s defense improved from the year before and finished as the 10th best in the league.
However, the offense took a dip to eighth in the NFL.
Babin was fantastic in 2011, racking up 18 sacks and a Pro Bowl nod. However, the rest of the Eagles free agents were marginable at best.
Asomugha suddenly couldn’t cover anyone and was used mainly in zone coverage.
Young filled in for an injured Vick and was terrible, throwing four picks against the Seahawks at one point.
Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t look like he wanted to hit anyone and Smith caught all of 11 passes before going on Injured Reserve with a knee injury.
Looking back, Jenkins was absolutely shocked at what happened in Philly that year.
“It was the most disappointing team I have been on,” Jenkins said. “We had such high expectations. It was a team that was used to winning, going to the playoffs year after year. To underachieve to the level we did was pretty bad.”
As the team struggled through the season, the national and local media began to criticize the Eagles management.
Then president Joe Banner tried to explain the organization’s thought process at the time.
“We had been so close so many times, so there was a decision to be a lot more aggressive than we had ever been in free agency, or at least be open to it if players were available,” said Banner. “And we probably were going to be more open to overpaying than we had been in the past to try to take advantage of where we were at and finally winning a Super Bowl. We had the cap room, and we felt there was going to be opportunity.”
After the season, Young was released and he signed with Buffalo but never did play in the NFL again.
Asomugha spent the 2012 season with the Eagles then spent part of 2013 with the 49ers.
He retired from football before the ‘13 season ended.
Ultimately, the team suffered from one basic thing, according to Jenkins.
“We didn’t jell together well,” Jenkins said. “There were different personality types. We didn’t come together as a unit. It’s tough to say if we lacked leadership. When you get a lot of new players, it’s hard to establish who the leader is. You had a lot of high-profile names. People were coming into a system new, so you really don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. You are trying to feel out the organization, the other players, how they do things, the expectations.”
In addition to the Browns splashy offseason free agent signings, Cleveland did very well in the 2021 draft.
In the first two rounds, they selected corner Greg Newsome II and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
The national and local media, along with Vegas oddsmakers, installed Cleveland as Super Bowl favorites soon after.
#OurCLE are only 4.5 GB of the WC#Browns are Super Bowl Bound Favorites#Cavs draft 3rd Overall in 11 days.
What a time to be a Cleveland fan pic.twitter.com/D3B93hZdeX
— Zachary Martin (@ZachMartin91) July 18, 2021
Although the team lost to the Chiefs by four points in Week 1, they reeled off three straight wins thereafter.
The Browns then lost three of their next four and fell to last place in the AFC North by November 1.
Cleveland has been plagued by the injury bug and grossly uneven play throughout the season.
Clowney, the Browns biggest name in free agency, has 3.5 sacks and 11 solo tackles.
He has also struggled with injuries this year.
During the Browns losses, the team has looked disorganized and unmotivated.
OBJ’s father, Odell Beckham Sr, stirred the pot last night with an 11 minute montage of the numerous occasions Baker Mayfield has missed an open Odell this season.
The 4-4 #Browns are barely sellers as the trade deadline approaches, but the lack of chemistry has been undeniable. pic.twitter.com/nlEeJRR06G
— Neer Ray (@NeerRayNFL) November 2, 2021
There have been uncharacteristic drops by receivers, fumbles, and questionable play calling on both sides of the ball.
As the team sits at 4-4, their current play doesn’t give Browns fans much hope for the rest of the season.
In fact, given their recent showing against Pittsburgh in Week 8, not much is expected of the team the rest of the way.
Looking at the Browns remaining schedule, it’s not a stretch to believe they’ll only win three or four more contests.
They should be able to beat the Lions and the Patriots, but winnable games against Las Vegas and Cincinnati at home are not guaranteed.
The 2021 Browns are disappointing to say the least.
They have suffered injuries, but with the abundance of talent they have, the team has not looked like a championship contender.
Cleveland on paper should be world-beaters.
They have been anything but.
After eight games, the Browns are ranked 19th in the NFL on offense and 13th in defense.
Just like the 2011 Eagles, the offense for Cleveland has gotten worse since last season while the defense is better (so far).
From an outsider’s perspective, the franchise looks to be suffering from the same thing Cullen Jenkins saw from the 2011 Eagles, lack of chemistry.
There are so many alpha males on the Browns and it looks like each of them wants to do their own thing.
Very recently, OBJ’s father took to Twitter, unloading on Baker Mayfield.
On Friday, OBJ was released from the organization.
Odell Beckham Junior's father posted a video showing Baker Mayfield not passing the football to his son.https://t.co/aM4ZHHl9X0
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 2, 2021
Numerous sports writers are reporting discord amongst the rest of the team.
Maybe Cleveland can come around in time like the Eagles did in 2011 and win some more games.
A lot has to happen, however, for the ball club to make the postseason and it doesn’t look like they have the willpower.
Honestly, when it comes down to it, the Browns and the 2011 Eagles are a lot alike, especially given their reliance on free agents.
Banner commented in 2016 about what he thought was their management’s biggest Achilles heel in 2011.
“Maybe we underestimated how difficult it was to bring that many new people in and get them integrated into the system all at once, especially given the unique circumstances of that season,” Banner said.
Former Eagles coach Andy Reid also added, “It took a while to get everybody going and learn the system,” he said. “That’s the risk when you do that.”
The same can be said of the Browns this season.
There are a lot of new pieces on the team, particularly on defense.
It may take a while before all the pieces come together before Cleveland can find success.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that will happen this year.
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