The Cleveland Browns are the talk of the NFL after acquiring Deshaun Watson. This team has supposedly been a Super Bowl contender for several years now. Finally getting a franchise quarterback has seemingly pushed the narrative to a whole new level.
But does Watson's arrival ensure success? This is a team that just broke a nearly two-decade long playoff drought during the 2020 season. In a stacked AFC, nothing is guaranteed.
Taking it a step further, the AFC North alone could be the toughest division in football. That is why several reasons point toward the Browns potentially not even taking the divisional crown in 2022.
3 reasons the Cleveland Browns may fall short of an AFC North crown in 2022
#3 - Questions surrounding Deshaun Watson
Watson was cleared criminally. He is, however, still facing the reality of 22 civil lawsuits against him for alleged sexual harassment. That is not going away anytime soon. Neither is the possibility of a suspension from the NFL.
Even something like two or four games could set the team back. Fans must also remember that the quarterback sat out the entire 2021 season. That could mean a suspension slows him down as he ramps up to full speed once again. One or two early losses could mean the difference between winning the division and snagging a Wild Card spot.
#2 - Kings of the AFC
The Cincinnati Bengals just won the AFC, and they nearly won the Super Bowl. They have a franchise superstar in Joe Burrow and can freely spend, thanks to cheap contracts at the skill positions. That will change down the line, but the team is in an ideal situation at the moment.
The Browns now have to play the defending AFC champions twice per season. Add in two matchups against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, and it is hard to predict a 4-0 record. Or even 2-2, given Cleveland's history. Fans must also factor in the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have had routine success against Cleveland for decades.
#1 - An ongoing history of struggles
Unfortunately, fans in Cleveland have seen great promise turn into a massive failure. This represents an organizational problem that has existed under the ownership of the Haslam family. That remains true, even if he has opened up the bank account this offseason.
Since returning in 1999, the team has made the playoffs a total of two times and have won a single game in the postseason. So while there is plenty of hype once again, fans will need to see some on-field results to truly feel like things have changed.
Winning the division with this roster should not be such a difficult task. However, it remains impossible to ignore recent history for this team and entire organization.