There are a few things you can count on in life: Death, taxes and the Cleveland Browns being the NFL’s ultimate train wreck.
A quarterback carousel that leaves fans nauseous. Freak injuries. Behavior by star players that even Justin Bieber would have cautioned against. That’s on top of the on-field ineptitude and hare-brained personnel moves, mind you.
This season, though, the winless Browns aren’t the only team putting the “fun” in dysfunctional. In fact, you could even make the argument that the Indianapolis Colts are a bigger debacle than the Browns.
And that takes some doing.
“We’ve dug ourselves a nice little hole,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano acknowledged Monday.
Pagano’s words were notable simply for the fact he still was around to say them. Most expected he’d be fired after Sunday’s shutout by the Jacksonville Jaguars, which dropped Indianapolis to 2-5. Don’t get too excited about those wins, either. They came against the Browns and the San Francisco 49ers, the NFL’s other winless team.
Yes, the Colts are without Andrew Luck – more on that in a bit – but they’re a mess everywhere you look. There are pillows that could offer better protection than the offensive line. The defense is giving up a league-worst 31.7 points per game, four-plus points more than the second-most generous defense, the Arizona Cardinals.
Indianapolis is second to New England in yards allowed, with 425.4 per game. Its 13 sacks is just three more than the Jaguars had in Sunday’s game alone.
First-round pick Malik Hooker was one of the few bright spots in Indianapolis, and he’s now out for the season with a shredded knee. Speaking of injuries, don’t count on Luck to save the day. He’d been throwing again for two weeks when the Colts announced they were shutting him down because of soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder.
I’m no doctor, but I don’t think that’s the outcome you’re looking for after surgery.
Even the coaching staff is contributing to the disarray, with assistant Robert Mathis arrested early Tuesday for drunken driving.
Meanwhile, in AFC North country, the Browns are trying to decide who will start at quarterback. Or, as Browns fans have come to know it, a day that ends in y.
Since the Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999, they’ve started 28 different quarterbacks, and you have to go all the way back to 2001 for the last time the same guy started all 16 games. I suppose congratulations are in order, Tim Couch. Or maybe condolences are more appropriate.
No surprise, then, that the Browns have had two winning seasons during that span.
As bad as those numbers are, though, they don’t give the full picture of the chaos. Since Johnny Manziel got his first start in Week 15 of 2014, the Browns have switched quarterbacks 20 times.
It would take the Green Bay Packers about 50 years to rotate through that many QBs, and the Browns have done it in less than three years. And that’s not even counting switches that were made during games.
Already this season, DeShone Kizer has been benched once, regained the starting job and was yanked during last week’s game after throwing his second interception. Only after the game did coach Hue Jackson learn that Kizer had been spotted out at 1 a.m. Friday.
That’s not to be confused with Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman, who were sent home for missing curfew before the Browns played the Houston Texans.
Functioning like a well-oiled machine, those Browns.
Amidst all the losing and embarrassment, the one thing the Browns had going for them was Joe Thomas. The left tackle was unwavering in his commitment to the Browns and as decent a person as you’ll find in the NFL. The most durable, too, never missing a snap – not a start, a snap — in 11 seasons.
Until Sunday, when he tore his triceps. While his season is most definitely over – he had surgery Tuesday – he’s still deciding whether to call it a career, too.
So if you see a Browns fan the next few days, be kind. No matter how bad of a week you’re having, theirs has been worse. Far worse.
Unless you’re a Colts fan, that is.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.