Here we go again with the Browns

In 1998, when the Cleveland Browns were nearing the end of a three-year hiatus as an active team in the NFL, Ohio-born rock musician Michael Stanley got together with a number of prominent performers to record a song called “Here we go again.”

The song – which included musical cameos by Lou Rawls, Ben Orr, Freda Payne and Clarence Clemons among others – was supposed to mean that the great Sundays of the past were returning.

The video remains on YouTube. It’s fun to watch, if only because of the producers splice in highlights from the games of the old Browns. Highlights from a period when the team was, you know, good.

Of course, the mere title of “Here we go again” represents the Browns’ 2014 situation well. And not in the way the writer intended.

A new general manager? Check.

New coach? Yeah.

Unsure of who the starting quarterback is? Of course.

Star receiver Josh Gordon facing a season-opening suspension? Hey, just like last year.

I’m writing this before Saturday night’s preseason game against the Lions. Preseason games have exactly one purpose: to not get anyone injured.

Other than that, we won’t learn much about what the team will do in the regular season. We know this because every year the Browns look sharp in the preseason, then look lost in Week 1.

When I talk to people about the team, they all say the Browns will be better. The consensus seems to be that they will go 8-8, showing immense improvement and taking a huge step toward respectability and contention.

I can see why there’s optimism.

The secondary of Joe Haden, Donte Whitner and rookie Justin Gilbert is poised to be one of the best in the league. With free-agent signee Ben Tate and draft pick Terrance West in the fold, the Browns may actually have a running game this year.

And if Gordon actually is allowed to play some games, the offense could be formidable.

I’m not sure what the Browns will do with quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, but I’d figure one of them will emerge as a consistent starter.

And yet, I can’t predict the Browns to win more than five games.

Why? Because they haven’t since 2007, and have only done it twice since making the playoffs in 2002.

Before I can believe this franchise is headed in the right direction, I have to know it’s at least possible.

Against my better judgment, I find myself believing in the Browns leadership.

General Manager Ray Farmer is a respected player personnel man who worked his way up and – unlike his predecessors- did not come from a corporate background or spend the last five years as an analyst.

New coach Mike Pettine has a commanding presence in his interviews that no other Browns coach – other than maybe Butch Davis – was able to exude. Pettine says and does all the right things, and while I didn’t agree with last season’s firing of Rob Chudzinski, I do believe Pettine has more potential for greatness.

But the Browns will have to prove they’re better on the field starting in September.

Saddle up. Here we go again.