Be Cautious of Climbing Aboard of the Browns Hype Train So Soon
Coming into the offseason the Cleveland Browns…yes, the Cleveland Browns were among the hottest teams at the end of the 2018 regular season and remain in that stratosphere during the early portion of the offseason. Despite losing their final game of the year in a tight week 17 divisional matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, the Browns are being talked about and are garnering more attention than the Superbowl champion New England Patriots since the season ended. They finished the year with a record of 7-8-1, and while that might not scream hop on the hype train when looking at their final record alone, they showed great promise and flashed the potential to be viable playoff contenders in the very near future with the emergence of star quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns are just a year removed from finishing as the fifth team in NFL history to not win a single game in a season after going 0-16 in 2017 and the year before that they only managed to win two games. Fast forward to 2019 and the Browns have not only found their franchise quarterback but they have also supplied the young and rambunctious Mayfield with an offensive arsenal loaded with Pro Bowl players at every skill position. Last offseason they traded for and signed four-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and drafted Georgia running back Nick Chubb, who was just four yards shy of rushing for 1,000 as a rookie, one round after Mayfield. This offseason they made even more of an investment on that side of the ball with the signing of Pro Bowl running back Kareem Hunt and trading for three-time Pro Bowl receiver and 2014 rookie of the year Odell Beckham Jr. Hunt won’t be at the team’s disposal until week nine after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy but following his return, they will field arguably the league’s best backfield tandem with Chubb. So why should one proceed with caution when deciding on whether to hop on the Cleveland Brown’s hype train before it goes full steam ahead? The 2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers should serve as a cautionary for those who like to jump on bandwagons far too early before a team that made a bunch of splash signings and transactions in the offseason takes a snap on the field in a regular season game. After finishing 9-7 in 2016 and winning six of their last eight games, the Bucs were primed to be perennial playoff contenders for the first time in over a decade. They were the trendiest none playoff team heading into the offseason and were early favorites to make the postseason for years to come and contend for division titles. That offseason they signed free agent receiver DeSean Jackson to a three-year deal worth $33.5 million. The speedy deep threat was coming off a 1,000-yard season with the Washington Redskins and still is considered among the fastest and most explosive playmakers in the league after leading the league in yards per reception last year with 18.9. In the draft that year they used their first-round pick on Alabama stud tight end OJ Howard, their second-round pick on starting strong safety Justin Evans and their third-round section on receiver Chris Godwin. While the Jackson signing and draft selections resulted in the team finding quality starters, they did not, however, translate into wins as the team has finished with a 5-11 record and in the last place in the NFC South in each of the last two seasons since the “broke out” in 2016. They didn’t make nearly the number of significant moves that the Browns have this offseason, it is rare that the winners of the offseason see that success reflected in the win column and the way too early crowning of a previously underwhelming team could sometimes be a year or two too early. If the Patriots haven’t taught the other teams in the league anything aside from the art and importance of preparation and doing one’s due diligence, it’s that a team doesn’t have to spend big in March to bring home the hardware in February as they typically wade still waters instead of diving into the early waves of the offseason. They have won three of the last five Superbowls by letting other teams overpay for their pending free agents and signing the discarded veterans from teams across the league to play specific roles and flourish. Championships can’t be predicted on paper in the spring they are forged in the crucible of the regular season, they are battle tested by adversity throughout the year more often than not and prove their championship pedigree when it matters most, in the postseason, a place the Browns haven’t been since 2002 and haven’t won since the 1994 AFC Wild Card round.