With the arrival of quarterback Baker Mayfield last season and the acquisition of star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns, the excitement is understandable. For the first time in a very long time attention is being paid to the team for the right reasons. Setting aside the trivial talking points on a larger scale from some of the more prominent sports pundits, things are indeed looking up. From going 0 for the season just two years ago, to working out of a situation last year to win 7 games, and now getting arguably the biggest name in the game on the team, it’s getting increasingly difficult to downcast any of the efforts of GM John Dorsey.
Somehow, the numerous mistakes of the past weren’t washed away from the shores of Lake Erie with this years NFL draft, or with promises to fans of a better future, or of simply clinging to long ago memories of the Browns as trailblazers and legitimate contenders for a championship. No, somehow this just seems different. The water is clearer, the air more crisp, the light a bit brighter. The orange is ‘orangier‘ and this time around it doesn’t matter if we have cool uniforms. The Browns, the fans in Cleveland, are looking to win.
It’s a curious mixture of ‘salt in the wounds, too backwards to care, mistake by the lake, wait until the very end of the game‘, and ‘never give up, city emblazoned on the jersey, real football weather, how can you possibly be a Steelers fan?‘, Cleveland attitude coming together to form the story that wasn’t told on Hard Knocks but is instead a breathless whisper uttered only in certain company, probably at a specific time and in a specific place, lest the uncertainty of yet another losing season manifests itself by those very words. Yes, we are damaged Browns fans and rightfully so.
The thing that should be of concern this season isn’t the superstition, or the ‘gelling’ of certain players in the locker room, but it’s simple and straightforward. The head coach.
Yes, he says all the right things. He’s brash and bold. Seems like a Clevelander. Who cares? He’s a first year head coach who hasn’t held a coordinator position in the NFL. He’s a challenge away from losing a timeout in the single most monumental game in a generations history. He isn’t Paul Brown but ‘who is he?’. Is he going to dive in the lake? Or, as we all hope, is he the person that keeps the drive and determination of the fans moving forward towards a ring? None of this is certain and that should be the issue. All we can do is assume certain aspects of this or that at this stage in the season and that’s the job of the bigger names in the business but they don’t seem to care to address the fact that Gregg Williams had these guys playing last season. Why not build on that? Or was Freddie Kitchens the cheaper option?
Williams was far from eloquent but talk is cheap. Odell Beckham Jr, as talented as he is, is good at saying the right things. He’s also from the biggest football market on the planet. So, we’ll see. But how can anyone predict that the Cleveland Browns will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, as many have already done, with a first year head coach who has no prior experience? It would be wise for everyone in this instance to reserve opinion. Optimism isn’t really optimism in Cleveland, after all.
The upside is the bar has been set low and the fans will have another opportunity to wait again next year if the Browns only get to the playoffs. But, can you even comprehend that? The Browns in the playoffs.