A New Era for the Cleveland Browns? - The Dynamo: Commentary

A New Era for the Cleveland Browns?

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Posted: Monday, September 10, 2018 9:00 am

It might go down as one of the worst stretches in professional sports history. The Browns have been known for being the laughing stock of the NFL ever since they expanded back in Cleveland in 1999. But in 2016, the so called “The Year of the 216,” it seemed as if they had hit rock bottom. The team went 1-15, with their only win coming on a missed field goal against the Los Angeles Chargers on Christmas Eve. Browns fans were hoping for a better season in 2017, because, honestly, it couldn’t get much worse than a 1-15 record.

Or could it?

It could. In 2017 The Browns hit rock bottom by not winning a single game. They became just the second team in NFL history to go 0-16, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions. They started rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer the majority of the season, and while at times he showed improvement, his numbers failed to provide enough reasons to keep him around after the season. He turned the ball over too much in the red zone, and he did not act as a leader off the field.

There were other mistakes on the roster as well, such as wide receiver Kenny Britt, who seemed allergic to the football, at times dropping passes. Jason McCourty on defense looked lost in the backfield. They weren’t the only players who were lacking; overall there was just not enough talent on the field, and not enough common sense in the front office for this football team.

Now, Cleveland has gone through multiple front office changes in recent years, ever since coming back in 1999. However, none have come close to working and establishing a winner on the field. Most recently Sashi Brown took over as general manager, and as GM he drafted wide receiver Corey Coleman in 2016 and Kizer in 2017. Neither are with the team anymore. Before Brown, it was Ray Farmer in the GM’s chair. Farmer drafted defensive tackle Danny Shelton and guard Cam Erving in 2015 in the first round, and corner Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2014. None of those top draft picks are with the team anymore. That’s just not good managing when it comes to the NFL. If you draft someone in the first round, you expect them to be with the team long term. Not just one or two years.

That being said, Browns fans have a hard time becoming optimistic when it comes to both a new season and a new front office and football operations department. But that might be different this time. New general manager John Dorsey, in the short time he has been in Cleveland, looks like he has already changed the culture of the Browns. It’s easy to see that when your team has been featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns.” From Dorsey and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley getting furious with wide receiver Corey Coleman and releasing him, to new wide receiver Jarvis Landry going off on the receiving corps about the negative past and the lack of effort the team has shown, and the prominent leadership starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor has expressed, this does not look like a team that is going to be a garbage fire anymore.

Dorsey without question has added better talent to the roster. Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor is a veteran in this league, a Pro Bowler, Super Bowl Champ, and recently took the Buffalo Bills to the Wild Card Game last season. Jarvis Landry comes from the Dolphins after being the

receptions leader in all of the NFL in 2017, along with reaching the Pro Bowl the last three seasons. They also picked up safety Damarious Randall from Green Bay, who had 4 interceptions last year. They also added depth to the running back position with former Ohio State Buckeye Carlos Hyde coming from San Francisco, and second round draft pick Nick Chubb coming from National Runner-Up Georgia.

The Draft for the longest time has felt like the Browns fans’ version of the Super Bowl. Well, they definitely celebrated like they won it all after drafting Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma, quarterback Baker Mayfield, with the first overall pick, and cornerback out of Ohio State, Denzel Ward, with the fourth overall pick. Before, and even after, the Browns selected Mayfield, there was a huge comparison to former Heisman winner and starting quarterback for Cleveland, Johnny Manziel, due in large part to his antics off the field, i.e. getting arrested, to his pure size and ability to last in the much larger NFL. Mayfield stands at 6’1”, 215. Manziel stood at 6’0”, 210. There’s no doubt that drafting Manziel was one of the biggest mistakes the Browns have ever made, not lasting more than two seasons, along with getting in trouble off the field in Cleveland. So that question is still up in the air with Mayfield, and whether or not his full attention will be to football.

One of the biggest assets to this team is wide receiver Josh Gordon. The problem with Gordon is the fact he hasn’t been able to help the team. Why is that? Well, he’s had a hard time staying on the field! He’s been regarded as a top ten receiver in the league. But he hasn’t been able to back that up with his negative past off the field. He hasn’t played a full season with the team since 2012. He’s been suspended three different times, and has had his reinstatement request denied twice. If the Browns want their offense to improve and be one of the top offenses in the league, they need Gordon to stay on the field for all 16 games. In 2014, he proved why he’s a reliable target on the field, receiving for 1,646 yards and 9 touchdowns. If he stays on the field, that will Taylor targets in Gordon, Landry, fourth round pick Antonio Callaway, Rashad Higgins, and tight end David Njoku. All of those receivers are prominent play makers.

Of course, all of the optimism around the Browns comes with skepticism of whether or not they’ll be able to survive a tough schedule. To go along with their home-and-away series with the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals, Cleveland has to travel to always challenging New Orleans, welcome Pat Mahomes and Kansas City, Matt Ryan and Atlanta, travel again to DeShaun Watson and the Texans, face off with Cam Newton and the Panthers, and travel to Mile High to face the Broncos. We’re in the golden age for quarterbacks, and Cleveland has to face some of the top playoff performing hurlers in the NFL, a year after going 0-16.

Will the Browns be the Cinderella story of the NFL this year? Or will it be another 3 or 4 win season, and another coaching change in the upcoming offseason? Yet, that’s what you come to expect when it comes to the Cleveland Browns. You just never know.

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