We’ve barely broken the seal on the second half of the 2022 Cleveland Browns‘ NFL season.
But Sunday’s lackluster finish in steamy Miami left many fans feeling their season is over.
With temperatures around 100 degrees on the field, it’s hard to discern a broken spirit from heat exhaustion.
Players who appeared to downshift in the 4th quarter might well have given 100 percent of what was left in their tank.
Be better in all phases pic.twitter.com/FVbiK7O5DE
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 14, 2022
And Cleveland’s Browns-centric fans have always taken credit or placed blame in the team’s lap.
But make no mistake about it: something special is happening in Miami this season.
Cleveland is just another team struck down by the superiorly talented and brilliantly-coached Dolphins.
But at 3-6, is it already time to think about the Browns’ 2023 season?
Lessons From Miami
Kevin Stefanski and Joe Woods had 2 weeks to self-scout, adjust, and prepare for the Miami Dolphins.
Even special teams started off well as Jerome Ford’s opening kickoff return kickstarted a 4-play touchdown drive.
But all it took was a rare lost fumble by Nick Chubb to snuff the fire out of Jacoby Brissett’s offense.
Which begs the question: Did the Browns really expect to do well in 2022 with a backup quarterback?
First @Browns QB w/ 75% comp pct, 250+ pass yards and 0 INT in back-to-back games:
Jacoby Brissett pic.twitter.com/WI9x3jxLEQ
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 10, 2022
Tua Tagovailoa is now 7-0 in games he finished this year and 15-2 in his last 17 starts.
But an otherwise healthy Miami team dropped 3 games with Teddy Bridgewater and Sklar Thompson.
Even with the talent and the rosters of the Browns and Dolphins, the Brissett’s and Bridgewaters of the NFL tend to fall short.
And Brissett duels an angry Josh Allen and a defiant Tom Brady before yielding to Deshaun Watson.
What Does “Look To 2023” Look Like?
Some fans are concerned that key Browns players already packed it in.
But don’t expect Stefanski or Andrew Berry to willingly cede games from here on out.
Berry probably regrets not dealing away some expiring contracts before the trade deadline.
But he has a lot of other decisions to make for next season under the shadow of a serious salary cap challenge.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 13, 2022
Cleveland filters in their rookies, largely by necessity, but there are other young players who deserve a look.
Jerome Ford, who has yet to receive an NFL handoff, and maybe even Demetric Felton deserve work on offense.
And Stefanski should want to see how David Bell and Michael Woods connect with Deshaun Watson.
How the youngsters present themselves could alter Berry’s 2023 draft and free agency plans.
Is It Worth Running The Table With Watson?
Berry and Stefanski knew they were at a disadvantage with Jacoby Brissett behind center.
But if they believed even half of the hype about their defense, they probably expected a few more wins.
It is reasonable to expect that 10 wins might not earn the Browns a wild card playoff game.
And if they want an 11th win, they have to run the table from here on out.
Now occupying the final AFC playoff spot: the New England Patriots pic.twitter.com/14McHb0Kty
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) November 14, 2022
Minnesota did the Browns no favor by injecting urgency into the Buffalo Bills’ repertoire this week.
And it is safe to assume that even a 6-0 run to end the year might leave the team watching the postseason from home.
Winning 5-6 of Watson’s starts will spark hope and sell the fans on Cleveland’s future.
But what matters more is the Browns are left with a better idea of whom they can continue winning with next season.