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September 12, 2016

Let’s check in on Cleveland after Carson Wentz’s strong debut

The suffering that Eagles fans have gone through over the years has been a well-chronicled subject. Even though the Birds’ reputation as heartbreakers is deserved, Eagles fans have been fortunate enough to cheer for some excellent teams and players.

It could be worse, far worse. No NFL fan base has consistently sat through worse football than Cleveland Browns fans. For the professional football fans of Northeast Ohio, the suffering is an endless cycle, a Factory of Sadness. That cycle continued today, as Robert Griffin III was placed on IR:

The storyline for yesterday’s Eagles-Browns opener was apparent before kickoff: In his first game as a pro, Carson Wentz had a chance to defeat the same team that said “Thanks, but no thanks” to him back in April. He did just that, going 22-37 for 278 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Wentz was spectacular yesterday, and Eagles fans are justifiably excited about what they saw. Last week, I wrote a post detailing how recent rookie QBs fared in their Week 1 debuts. The best first impression of that group still probably belongs to Robert Griffin III, and as we saw yesterday, it certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing for him.

One game does not a career make, especially against a team as young as the Browns. Just don’t tell that to longtime Cleveland radio host Tony Rizzo, who opened his show with what can only be described as an epic rant. All 25 minutes are terrific radio, but here’s a little taste in case you’re on the fence:

Rizzo, whose views may not necessarily align with all Browns fans, is frustrated about the general direction of the team. He didn’t believe the team looked all that professional against the Browns. It’s hard argue with him:

“You look terrible. You’re the worst team in the league. I don’t like it. It’s a proud city, was a proud franchise, was a proud football town. They’ve ruined that. There’s no pride here.”

Sounds familiar, right? The Browns front office has embraced analytics and also decided to strip down the team and build from the ground up. It’s incredible how similar the arguments between Rizzo and his (younger) producers mirrored the same ones that we still have in Philadelphia over the Sixers.

The Process involved a lot of short-term losing, which the Sixers still might not be free of. Before Sam Hinkie arrived, the Sixers hadn’t truly been relevant since 2001. It’s fair to say the Browns were a worse franchise over that time span, though. In a sport that thrives on parity, Cleveland has made precisely one playoff appearance in the past 22 years. The Browns lost.

Understandably, Rizzo doesn’t have much patience:

“What did you expect me to say today after the guy the geniuses passed on in Berea whipped my ass in Week 1? What do you think I’m gonna say? You think I’m gonna come on here today and talk about a five-year plan. I don’t have five years. I’m gonna die!”

Wentz’s performance didn’t help his mood, either:

“Here’s the part I don’t like, the quarterback thing. Why didn’t you bring RG3 and Wentz here? All you had to do was take the card to the commissioner! You didn’t have to give up anything! And let me tell you something, if they whiffed that bad on the evaluation of Carson Wentz, they said he wasn’t a top-20 quarterback, how did he look yesterday?

The Browns are likely going to be awful, and as Hinkie said at his introductory press conference, their challenges “aren’t for the faint of heart.” There will be detractors, and hey, it might not work out (just like it might not with the Sixers). Football and basketball are two very different sports.

It's important to remember that the Eagles gave Cleveland a boatload of picks the Wentz trade. Maybe the Browns select a franchise quarterback at the top of next year’s draft in Philly, and maybe that guy turns out better than Wentz. Maybe the trade works out for both teams in the long run.

The jury is still out on the Wentz trade, and unlike in The Night Of, they're not coming back for a while. For now, Browns fans might be resigned to trusting the process. Or waiting for basketball season. I hear Cleveland might be pretty good this year.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann