It seems just like yesterday that the general population agreed that the Browns were going to have a successful season. Some going as far to say that they were “the team to beat,” some taking their foot off the gas a bit and labeling them “a contender,” but the point remained that this was a team that was a shoe-in for the play offs.
And as a result, the city of Cleveland slowly comes back to earth as they realize their lofty expectations will never come to fruition. It must be frustrating.
But why these expectations even existed in the first place is beyond me. Not because “it’s the Browns doing Browns things” or any other tired cliches. Because the reality is the Browns were doing things far opposite than their history would suggest.
They went out and acquired legitimate, proven talent in Olivier Vernon, Kareem Hunt, and Odell Beckham.
That was very good.
For the first time ever, they had a young quarterback, in Baker Mayfield, come in and have enough success to convince ownership to stay the course, something that past quarterbacks have not been able to establish.
And, in keeping with the theme of continuity, they went and made their new head coach someone who was, allegedly, instrumental in that new quarterback’s success, in Freddie Kitchens.
So, no, the reason none of this is shocking is because it’s the Browns being the Browns.
The reason that none of this is shocking is because we’ve seen this exact situation before.
I’ll ask you this, do you remember the biggest story heading into the 2011 NFL season? Of course you don’t, because the narrative crashed and burned harder than a Paul Walker driven car (RIP).
The big story heading into that season was that of the new and improved Philadelphia Eagles roster. That offseason, they signed every big name available. They added All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha to a secondary that already had Asante Samuel and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. Wildcat master runningback Ronnie Brown behind LeSean McCoy. Defensive end Jason Babin to a line that boasted Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Juqua Parker. And former Rookie of the Year quarterback, Vince Young, to backup the rehabilitated Michael Vick, who had just brought the Eagles to the playoffs.
This new crop of Eagles led to the media declaration of what would be known as, “The Dream Team.”
On paper, there was simply no way any NFL team could match up with Philadelphia on any given Sunday. On paper, They were an obvious Super Bowl pick, and guaranteed to contend.
They went a dissapointing 8-8.
By the start of the next season, all aformentioned “big names,” except for Asomugha, were not on the team. They would fall to 4-12 that year, resulting in the firing of Head Coach Andy Reid, and all of the sudden the team was staring a true rebuild right in the face.
A well-established lesson was relearned that year. Free agents don’t win you championships.
That is, of course, until 2019.
They say history repeats itself, and no place is that more evident than Cleveland, Ohio. Though, typically, it’s the Browns reliving their own self-created hell with high turnover of personel, horrible drafting decisions, and poor leadership from the Front Office.
Rarely do they adopt other team’s mistakes.
But here we are. A team that, on paper, is simply unmatched by any NFL team on any given Sunday.
A quarterback who had all the expectations in the world, seemingly for naught.
And a coach kept around to maintain continuity.
While this last point doesn’t fit in with the Eagles model, I can tell you, from personal experience, that that doesn’t work.
So next time you decide to get excited about a “new and improved team.”
Read a book, you might learn something.