If patience is a virtue, then don't include fans of the Cleveland Browns among the virtuous.
This is a fan base that can take a win albeit an ugly 6-3 win over the lowly Seattle Seahawks and not be celebratory. After the game last Sunday there was a feeling of joy that the Browns were triumphant, but it wasn't a strong enough feeling to evoke chest pounding and dog barking.
It must be a Cleveland thing in general with its sports teams. The Indians, Browns and Cavaliers have collectively had more makeovers than Joan Rivers. Unfortunately, for the fans, the teams usually look worse afterwards.
An optimist would look past the poor showing of the offense against the Seahawks and see a defense that seems to be molding into a good unit. It's too early to throw nicknames at it, but through six games no one should complain about an overall ranking of fourth in total defense.
That ranking is a direct reflection on the emphasis general manager Tom Heckert has put on defense in the early picks of the last two drafts. In 2010 Heckert plucked Florida cornerback Joe Haden in the first round and followed that by selecting Oregon safety T.J. Ward in the second round.
This year Heckert focused on the aging and porous defensive line. Gone were aging players like Kenyon Coleman, Shaun Rogers and Robaire Smith, paving the way for the selection of Baylor tackle Phil Taylor in the first round and Pittsburgh end Jabaal Sheard in the second round.
The foursome of Haden, Ward, Taylor and Sheard are all starting and, more importantly, contributing. Haden is the gem of the group. There are few cornerbacks better than Haden when combining man coverage skills and tackling ability.
A case in point occurred early in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks, who had gained 7 yards on a first-down pass completion. In prior years this was the point of the game when the defense would have collapsed and allowed a touchdown. Not this time. Haden, sensing a running back screen to motion man Leon Washington, quickly darted into the backfield and dropped Washington for a 3-yard loss with a textbook tackle.
The Seahawks were forced to punt after their third-down play resulted in an incompletion.
Ward might have had his best game of the season. He came up big to break up a third-down pass in the end zone on a goal-line stand that forced a field goal in the third quarter.
Sheard was a force up front, registering three tackles, half a sack and one quarterback hurry. Taylor was quiet, but he's joined forces with talented tackle Ahtyba Rubin to strengthen a once weak middle. Taylor has 23 tackles and two sacks.
The message should be that this is a young team that could be headed in the right direction. At least there's a sense of hope opposed to last season, when coach Eric Mangini had lame duck written all over him and the team was among the oldest in the NFL.
All this happy talk doesn't hide the fact that the offense can charitably be called a work in progress. Coach Pat Shurmur doesn't want to hear talk about regression, but what else do you call what we saw last Sunday?
The Browns have two first-round draft choices next year, and it's safe to say at least one if not both will be used on offensive players. Maybe next season the offense will be making the strides shown this season by the defense.
It's hard for Browns' fans, but just have a little patience.