Another brutal season staggers to finish

A long Cleveland Browns season gets longer by the week, and may continue with the team's best defensive player sidelined after getting kneed in the hip.

Joe Haden hobbled into the team's media room to say he was in a lot of pain after he was inadvertently hit, and that he had “no idea” if he could practice or play this week.

Haden may respond quickly to treatment, but that remains to be seen.

Haden's absence creates a strong ripple effect throughout the defense. He covers the opponent's best receiver. Chris Owens, the team's nickel back, is already on injured reserve. Without Haden and Owens, the Browns would have their second, fourth and fifth corners playing in the first, second and third slots against the New York Jets.

Buster Skrine and rookie Leon McFadden have been victimized lately, and Julian Posey becomes the nickel. Teams find players everywhere, but Posey has been active for just three games this season.

If Haden can't play, it would seem defensive coordinator Ray Horton would have to adjust coverage, perhaps have the corners play sides, or even play more zone.

The good news is rookie quarterback Geno Smith hasn't exactly lit the world on fire in New York -- he's completing 55 percent with more than twice as many interceptions (21) as touchdowns (10).

The Browns are left to wonder what happened to a season that had many thinking the playoffs were possible when they started 4-5. In hindsight, the playoff chatter was ludicrous -- not because of the past five losses in a row -- but because they only won one game in the four before the bye. Five losses since the week off make 10 for the season. Again.

Players keep promising things will change. In fact, they vow it will change. They believe in each other, and in the coaches. They wonder why things aren't going well. Haden said players are having serious, legit discussions with coaches about what to do. He said it's “not the same old Browns,” a notion coach Rob Chudzinski seemed to favor.

“We're not going to hope we get better,” Chudzinski said about 12 hours after the birth of his fourth child, a boy. “We're going to make good things happen. We're going to be proactive and I've challenged our coaches and players to be part of the solution.”

Chudzinski means it, and he cares.

But the problem is the same things have been said over and over the past many years.

The end results eventually are the same: For the sixth season in a row, and for the 11th time in 12 seasons, Cleveland finishes with at least 10 losses.

Which leaves the fans -- like they were Sunday -- standing out in the cold waiting for something good to happen.