How Bad Will The Browns Be?

NFL training camps are underway.  Up north, Cleveland Browns fans are flocking to watch the team go through drills.  The Browns are setting attendance records and don’t even have room to admit everyone who shows up to watch practices.

Is this because the Browns are expected to contend for the Super Bowl this year?  Hardly.  Most pundits expect that the Browns will be one of the worst teams in the league this season.  But the Browns’ faithful are just that — full of faith — and they are hoping that some high-profile draft picks turn the team around.

Last year the Browns were awful.  They finished 4-12 and lost every game they played against the other teams in the AFC North.  The Browns’ “three-and-out” offense was so putrid it was unwatchable.  Their running game was laughable, quarterback Colt McCoy had a dismal year, and the Browns probably had the NFL’s worst receiving corps. The defense was better than the offense (which truly is damning with faint praise) but still gave up lots of yards on the ground.  Neither the offense nor the defense had a true NFL-caliber playmaker — someone who would command the attention of opposing coaches and make them change their standard approach to the game.

This year, the Browns hope they got some offensive playmakers by using their high draft choices to select running back Trent Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weedon, and receiver Josh Gordon.  In the NFL, one or two true playmakers can take a moribund offense, energize the returning players, and turn it into a powerhouse.  If Richardson runs the ball effectively and add a few breakaways, and Weedon throws with more zip and accuracy than McCoy managed, the Browns could be significantly improved.  Whether there is enough improvement to convert an abysmal offense into one that is even decent remains to be seen.

Defensively, the Browns already are struggling with injuries to key players — Phil Taylor and Chris Gocong among them —  and it’s not clear that the Browns will be any better against the run this year than last.  The real hope for the defense is that the offense will move the ball, allow the defense to get off the field, score some points, and put some pressure on the opposing offense.  If that happens, the defense may be in position to force some turnovers.  The defense clearly won’t be one of the most feared units in the league, but it could keep the team in games with a bit of help from the offense.

I’m not expecting anything much from the Browns this year, but I don’t think they will be as bad as many experts are forecasting.  I’ll watch their games and hope for improvement, secure in the knowledge that things really couldn’t be much worse than last year.

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About That Concept Of “Running The Government Like A Business” . . . .

We often hear politicians, of both parties, talk about trying to run the government “like a business.”  Of course, the government isn’t a business, and it inevitably doesn’t run like a business — even when it is performing a business-like function.

The latest example of this reality is the news that Amtrak is selling food and beverages to its passengers at a loss.  In the last decade, Amtrak’s food and beverage cars have lost $833 million.  $833 million!  How did that happen?  Because Amtrak is selling food and beverage items for less than it costs to supply them.  According to the linked article, every cheeseburger costs Amtrak $16.15, yet Amtrak charges its customers only $9.50.  Every can of soda costs Amtrak $3.40, and Amtrak charges its passengers only $2.  The fact that each can of soda costs Amtrak $3.40 tells you something about Amtrak’s uncompetitive cost structure, given that any American can buy an individual can of soda — to say nothing of the per-can cost of a twelve-pack — for much less than that.

Of course, no business could remain in operation if it racked up $833 million in losses over ten years and regularly sold goods for much less than it costs to provide them.  The fact that Amtrak has done so for a decade just confirms that bureaucrats don’t think or behave like businessmen and aren’t subject to the same competitive pressures that cause companies like Wal-Mart to constantly search for ways to bring goods to market for the lowest possible price.

People of different views may disagree about whether we should subsidize Amtrak fares in order to support mass transit.  Does anyone, however, really think it is appropriate that taxpayers also subsidize the cheeseburgers and sodas that the Amtrak passengers consume on their already subsidized journeys?

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

The old boring guy is getting on my nerves.  It’s hot outside.  Everyone knows it.  When Kasey and I go outside, we want to take care of business and come right back.  The Leader knows this.  But the old boring guy won’t let us!  No, he has to take us on a walk, and he won’t even let us stop whenever we want to sniff interesting smells along the way.  Instead, he walks ahead and we have to trot just to keep up with him.

Hey, old boring guy!  See the brown stuff on my skin?  It’s called fur!  It’s great when it’s cold, but when it’s hot out it makes me hot, too.  Can you cut us some slack on these long walks through the heat?

When I come back from one of those walks on a hot day, I find a shady spot on the wooden floor and stretch out so that as much of my body as possible is touching the cool wood.  And because I’m in the shadow I hope the old boring guy doesn’t see me and leaves me alone for a while.