It's hard to argue against the fact that the Browns are bad. Their 2-8 record this year and their 31 losses since the start of the 2010 season show this franchise has a lot of work to do.
But the Browns may not be as far off from a turnaround as many think. Cleveland is 7-18 in games decided by seven points or fewer since 2010, according to STATS Inc. The 18 losses by seven points or fewer are the most by any NFL team during that span.
In comparison, the Ravens are 18-7 in games decided by seven points or less over that same period, including 5-1 this season. The key for the Browns is finding leadership to turn close losses into close victories.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur said earlier this week that he talks to his team all the time about finishing games. "We have a whole locker room full of winners," he said. "This whole organization is full of winners. We've just got to put it all together and do it."
To clarify, Shurmur meant that there are players in the locker room and people in the organization who won before joining the Browns. There's no one who fits that description based on what they've done after joining the Browns.
The big problem for the Browns is their history of losing close games, which has continued recently. They led the Cowboys by 10 points entering the fourth quarter last Sunday and they were ahead by one point with 8:48 remaining against the Ravens in the game before that. In the last two losses, Cleveland has been outscored 28-10 in the fourth quarter.
Let's see a show of hands of how many thought the Browns were still going to lose at Dallas even when they jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead. This lack of confidence isn't limited to the Browns' fan base.
There was a telling quote after Sunday's loss that sums up the effect of all of this losing. “I’m numb to it now," said D'Qwell Jackson, the Browns' middle linebacker and one of the team leaders. "You just try to focus on your job and focus on playing the best you can and making sure guys are still into playing. We’ve been in this situation far too much, and there’s nothing you need to say. We’ve got to finish.”
No one should misinterpret Jackson and think he doesn't care. Jackson and his teammates hate losing. But that's all they know in Cleveland. New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will make a lot of changes this offseason. His priority is finding a way to change his team's culture of losing.