A mountain of (justifiable) abuse has rained down on the Cleveland Browns for starting their fifth quarterback in five games Sunday against the Dolphins.
Has bad luck played a role? Probably.
But more than that, the whiplash-inducing turnover reflects a generation-long run of instability at the very top of the organization.
Jordan Cameron knows that better than anyone.
The Dolphins tight end spent his first four seasons with the Browns. In that time, he played under three head coaches and as many general managers. (For good measure, they’ve fired a coach and GM in the 18 months that Cameron has been gone, too.)
The result? Twenty wins and 44 losses in Cameron’s time there.
It was not fun.
“It’s frustrating,” Cameron said this week. “You learn pretty quick that this game is a business. At the end of the day, you want to believe it’s just football, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on.”
Dysfunction. Politics. An owner tired of losing.
The Dolphins have been on that same treadmill — with similar results. Both the Browns and Dolphins have been to the playoffs once since the start of the 2002 season.
And Cameron, in his second season with Miami, is now on his third coach and second general manager with his new team.
“You never want to see coaches go,” Cameron said. “… It’s one of those tough things with this business, if you don’t win, someone’s got to go. Someone’s got to take the blame. That’s the situation with this turnover stuff. You start getting some wins here, start getting a more positive outlook on things and get things rolling.”
Adam Gase, Cameron’s sixth NFL head coach, is looking for that elusive first win. And most expect it will come Sunday against Cameron’s old team.
Here’s why: Cody Kessler will start for Josh McCown, who in Week 2 started for Robert Griffin III, Cleveland’s opening-day quarterback. Plus the Dolphins should have the lift of a home opener in their renovated stadium.
Not a surprise, then, that the Dolphins are 10 1/2-point favorites Sunday — the biggest spread of any Week 3 game.
Cameron would take a win by any margin. The Dolphins are just 6-12 since he joined the team in 2015. He hasn’t lived up to expectations.
But after a dreadful training camp and preseason, Cameron is starting to click with Ryan Tannehill. He has caught seven of 10 targets this season, including a heat-seeking touchdown pass Sunday in New England that Tannehill fired past two converging defenders.
Those were the type of plays Cameron expected to make all the time in Miami. Tannehill was a big reason why he picked the Dolphins over staying in Cleveland — even if it appeared he would remain with the Browns.
Back in March 2015, the Dolphins needed a tight end after it became clear that their one-year, $7 million transition tender of Charles Clay wasn’t going to hold up. (Clay ultimately signed a five-year, $38 million deal with the Bills.)
Cameron was one of very few good options left available. But as he wrapped up his visit at team headquarters, multiple outlets reported that Cameron would return to the Browns on a two-year, $15 million deal.
Didn’t happen. He signed with the Dolphins, and many believe his camp floated the Browns deal for leverage.
Cameron insists that’s not the way it went down.
“Just a big miscommunication,” Cameron said. “My agent was thinking something, I was thinking something. Wires got crossed. It was a miscommunication. It wasn’t me saying, ‘I’m coming here,’ then, ‘I’m not going there.’ ”
Fast-forward two years, and the Browns are basically a foreign team to Cameron. Along with the changes at the top, the roster has been overhauled as well.
That’s why he called Sunday “just another game.”
“I learned a lot there,” Cameron said. “I enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed playing there. The people there, the fans are awesome.”
He added: “Definitely a learning experience. I went through a lot of ups and downs.”