The Browns are perceived as the worst team in football, but a new dawn is rising.
Losing sucks and winning never gets old. This adage is the heartbeat of the National Football League, a cutthroat business where one’s worth is defined by wins—and the Cleveland Browns have been the antithesis of winning.
The Browns have proven to be the worst team in football during the 21st century. They had a single playoff appearance in 2002 and zero playoff wins. In 2017, the Browns had a record of 0-16 and the fans started wearing bags over their heads during home games due to embarrassment. Most of the NFL looked at the Browns as a joke; Memes were made and even non-football fans knew they were struggling. It all begged the question — could Cleveland change their culture? The organization decided to take it one day, one offseason and one draft at a time in order to rebuild.
After a 2015 record of 3-13, a 2016 record of 1-15 and a notorious 2017 0-16 season, the Browns were at the top of the draft each year, allowing them to get the best incoming college athletes. This allowed for the acquisition of Corey Coleman, wide receiver; Myles Garrett, defensive end; Jabrill Peppers, defensive back; and David Njoku, tight end.
The organization also hired John Dorsey as new general manager. This move sparked new life within the team due to the players Dorsey acquired — Baker Mayfield, quarterback, and Denzel Ward, cornerback — in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. Additions included Austin Corbett, offensive line; Nick Chubb, running back; Chad Thomas, defensive end; and others. The biggest impact was the acquisition of Jarvis Landry in March 2018. Landry, an all pro, brought a level of talent and confidence the Browns were lacking. Landry helped the initial phase of rebirth.
Cleveland built a talented roster in the 2018 NFL season due to the successful draft and free agency. 2018 seemed to be the year of breakthrough, and for the Browns it was, as Mayfield led his team to a 7-9 record. The young football team managed to finally win some games, but overall, it was still a below .500 team.
But the Browns’ organization had enough, so they decided to do whatever it took to win. The 2019 offseason marked many blockbuster trades, such as the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr., by way of trade with the New York Giants, and the hiring of new head coach Freddie Kitchens. After this offseason, the sports world looked upon the Cleveland Browns as a new organization with what appeared to be a bright future. BelieveLand!
Some Browns fans have reportedly gotten tattoos claiming the team will be Super Bowl champions this year and football fans see them as real contenders. There is a real optimism behind a previously hurting organization. A real revival is brewing, and the Browns may finally be putting the pieces together.
Is the hype just all talk and hope? Or are the Browns still missing some key pieces? Each position group consists of talented athletes, but there are still some holes in their all-star lineup. John Dorsey has brought in some exciting talent, but there may need to be a closer consideration of who exactly the 53 man squad contains instead of looking to the big names. Football is a team game, and no matter the talent, football requires 11 guys on the field working together in unison. This team has some real potential, and it seems they are a diamond in the rough. The Browns think they have the pieces in place, and now it’s time to polish the diamond.
The quarterback position is at an elite level. Mayfield came in second last year for Rookie of the Year and is a strong, firerey leader. At running back, the Browns have second-year man Nick Chubb out of Georgia. He is a big back who runs strong. They also picked up Kareem Hunt who was one of the top running backs in the NFL last year. What looks to be the most prestigious group are the wide receivers with players like Jarvis Landry and offseason blockbuster Odell Beckham Jr. The receivers were top draft picks out of college where they both played at Louisiana State University.
Having these two dynamic players on the same team again is going to be dangerous for any opponent. But there is a position group in question: The offensive line looks to be a weak spot for Cleveland. All-Pro player Joe Thomas, longtime offensive tackle, recently retired and left a gaping hole in the overall talent and leadership of the offensive line. This could be the position group that holds the Browns back from their hopes and dreams. Leadership needs to be established because the offensive line relies on communication to relay calls and to protect the quarterback. This position group needs to find its foundation in order to be that Superbowl contender team.
But the Browns organization and John Dorsey have done a tremendous job getting the Browns’ fandom excited about this new and improved team. The first pick of the 2018 draft and of Dorsey’s career as general manager was quarterback Mayfield. All the draft analysts said they shouldn’t take the big attitude from Mayfield and instead pick Sam Darnold. Dorsey decided to forgo what the experts advised and went out and got the guy he believed would bring a spark into the organization.
The Browns are the quintessential diamond in the rough team. Could a Super Bowl be in their future? It certainly seems like the organization is heading in the right direction, but is it too soon to say they are real contenders?
Longtime Browns fan and Azusa Pacific student, Mason Mulvihill, stated, “We have all the tools, there is no reason we should not make it to the AFC Championship.” Mulvihill went on to comment about how impressed he is with Baker Mayfield and the attitude he brings to the team.
The Browns have a strong 2019 NFL schedule and are looking to take the division against the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, both of which are elite teams. Winning divisional matchups will be key for the Browns’ success this year, and with that, the future looks bright. There is a real excitement to see the rebirth of a historically awful team.