As the NFL is getting set for its 100th season and all 32 teams are gearing up for week 1 through training camps, the buzz continues regarding which teams had the best offseasons and what to expect from them. Mostly due to their acquisition of one generational star, the Cleveland Browns have been the hot topic team.
If getting a taste of it this past season wasn’t enough, there is now a true sense of winning within the Browns organization heading into September.
They have a young quarterback in Baker Mayfield primed to take the league by storm and end the signal-caller carousel that has ravaged the team since Tim Couch. Amid a dramatic coaching change, he was able to bring his talents from Oklahoma to the pro gridiron and lead the Browns to their first home win in nearly two seasons and a near .500 record.
Also receiving high amounts of praise is their GM John Dorsey. With his bold attitude and desire to change the narrative of the Browns’ organization, he went out and made incredible, statement-making deals to acquire names like Odell Beckham Jr, Olivier Vernon, and Kareem Hunt. His team’s roster now boasts one of the best wide receiver duos in football and a defense full of playmakers.
The Cleveland Browns are strutting into the 2019-2020 season with new coaching, a power shifting roster, and an overall new public image. For the first time since Lebron James’ homecoming, there is pride, hope, and belief in “Believeland”. Many are racing to the gates of First Energy Stadium to join the forces of the “Dawg Pound”, and the media are following right behind them.
With some going to the extremes of labeling the Cleveland Browns title contenders, they are certainly poised to be a team that everyone follows closely throughout the season.
When asked about all the hype he and his new teammates have been bringing to the team, quarterback Baker Mayfield exclaimed that it doesn’t scare him. He also added that the hype might feel strange to some players because for them, “it’s been pretty terrible to be part of this team for a while”. (ESPN)
Mayfield may not be too concerned about the newfound noise his team is creating, however, the Browns, although also enjoying the limelight, must not let it become an obstacle to their goals of reawakening the Browns’ success of old.
While they may play in possibly the most heart-stricken sports city in the country where the fans are so bereft of success that they only care about on-field production, the Browns will still not be excused from getting too mixed in with the pomp and circumstance now surrounding them. The organization hasn’t been in this position of intrigue in a very long time, and therefore they must remain focused on the task at hand and let their production do the talking.
There’s going to be national media coverage saying things about them every day, both good and bad (just ask Odell Beckham Jr), and opposing teams trying to get under their skin. If they truly want to fulfill the hype, they must put football first and save the celebrating and statements for after a win.
Whether or not the Browns know this, that starts with their top-tier receiving duo.
No two guys on the Browns roster could love the fame more than wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry. The two have been friends since before their college days at LSU and have been media icons throughout their respective careers. With their career paths now meeting in the same conference on the same team, they will have more time to spend with each other while soaking in the new teammate hype in Cleveland.
Being the societal moguls that they are, Beckham and Landry will be inclined to hitting up the hottest places in the city, traveling, and living the celebrity lifestyle together. Granted if they are constantly winning these things won’t matter as much, but if off the field celebratory camaraderie gets in the way of their success on the football field it may lead to disgruntled fans and negative consequences.
During the football season, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry should use their friendship and teammate status to their advantage by spending extra time working out and developing their craft. If they do so, they will better the Browns and see the results they want out of their new start in Cleveland. Do too much premeditated celebrating, and you might end up with another Miami boat trip situation that the New York Giants had.
Along with having to worry about these two personalities, the Cleveland Browns must manage how much attention they give to the surrounding hype and how they will respond to it because their schedule demands it.
The Browns do not exactly have an easy schedule to support their long-awaited hopes of a playoff berth. They will have to face several of the NFL’s top as well as up and coming teams including the Rams, Patriots, Jets, Seahawks, and Steelers, two of which come within the first three weeks of the season. Each of these teams comes with their own set of stars and positional strengths capable of shutting Cleveland down and keeping the paper bag over the head culture alive.
For the past several months, the Browns have been labeled a real candidate for the AFC North division crown among other things. A high-powered offense and a defense that brings a “Dawg Pound” physicality is what will be expected from the team based on who they’ve brought in. Quarterback Baker Mayfield laid the foundation last season for this football rebirth in Cleveland and started all the noise, now in his second year with a revamped roster it’s time for his new teammates to step it up a notch.
If the Browns land themselves a below .500 record through the first few weeks of the season, questions will be asked, tensions will rise, and hopes for the playoff picture will be diminished. The NFL is finally allowing them to get prime time viewership, so there’s Los Angeles Rams style football expected in Cleveland.
To build on this, newly hired head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters at the onset of Browns' training camp that himself and the rest of the team, from ownership to player, are embracing the hype and expect to live up to it en route to their hopes of contending for a Super Bowl.
“I want everybody to understand this: Our goal here with the Cleveland Browns, as long as I'm here, will always be to win the Super Bowl. Just know and make it a given that that’s what I believe to my core, is to win the Super Bowl.”
Kitchens’ statement reveals lofty goals, but still ones that are reachable for this Browns team in 2019. GM John Dorsey, upon Kitchens’s hiring, has done his job to make sure the head coach has the right roster pieces in both talented stars and rising young standouts. Now it’s time for the said coach to lead and grow his team, instill maturity and competitiveness in them, and bring a culture and product every Sunday that’s capable of annual playoff and Super Bowl contention.
If he doesn’t, they’ll fall victim to underachieving the ever-growing hype.
It’s been an unexpected two years for the lowly Cleveland Browns franchise. Just seasons ago, they would undertake a miserable journey which culminated in an 0-16 record, the worst season in Browns history and the “honor” of the second NFL team to go 0-16 since the Detroit Lions in 2008.
Then in the following season, Baker Mayfield, one of college football’s most recent studs, arrived in Cleveland looking to shock his haters and do something for the Browns that hadn’t been done by the last 20+ quarterbacks to don the Browns uniform: win and make the city a cool NFL destination again. Under his presence, the team went 7-8-1, applied some pressure to the AFC playoff picture seedings, and Baker Mania was born in Cleveland.
Now as the 2019-20 season commences, the Cleveland Browns come in towards the top of the football world. Thanks to their bold GM John Dorsey and front office, big names have been brought in to fill the starting tier of the depth chart and accomplish something phenomenal for the city of Cleveland. There are hopes for more than just Christmas miracle victory amongst the Dawg Pound faithful.
The Cleveland Browns hype is alive and abounding and it’s evident everywhere you look.
For the first time in a long time, Browns tickets are flying off the shelf and First Energy Stadium will be the new place to be on a Sunday in Cleveland. The local and national sports media are talking about the Browns, their new squad, and expectations daily. Whether or not they will admit it, unless they follow an AFC North team, many football fans are secretly rooting for the Browns to be successful because they’ve lacked success for so long.
If the Browns want to join the ranks of some of the greatest sports teams to ever live, to ever win a championship with a group of young stars, they are going to need to control the hype and not let it control them. There are expectations to meet, hungry media to respond to, and long-time, loyal Browns fans to give football too.
Former NFL QB and Detroit Lion Daniel Orlovsky said it best on ESPN’s NFL Live, you got to “let your walk match your talk”.
The Cleveland Browns heading into Week 1 have all the tools necessary to do so. But as the old adage says, with great power comes great responsibility.