Enough already with this Super Bowl destiny stuff for the Cleveland Browns.
Two weeks ago, Greedy Williams was drafted in the second round out of LSU and then promptly declared …
“The Browns are going to the Super Bowl this year.”
Now, Odell Beckham Jr., in a fresh GQ article, is talking about turning the Browns into …
“The new Patriots.”
Sure, the Browns are a team on the rise that deserves our attention. On a basic level, there’s nothing wrong with OBJ, Greedy (given name: Andraez), Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, et al., to go about their business of trying to win in the NFL with the utmost confidence.
But this has become so ridiculous.
Try this, Brownies: Win a playoff game.
That’s impossible to achieve in May. Victories in OTAs and minicamps don’t count in January. As it stands now, these newfound expectations of Browns greatness have set them up to overtake the Steelers — an AFC North bully of the highest order — as the NFL’s biggest tease.
Some fast facts: The Browns (7-8-1 last season) have had 11 consecutive losing seasons and missed the playoffs for 16 years in a row. The franchise’s last playoff victory came after the 1994 campaign, when Bill Belichick coached Cleveland to a first-round win against … New England.
INSTANT IMPACT: 9 players in 2019 draft who could make a Super Bowl difference
NFL POWER RANKINGS: Colts, Eagles among teams on rise after draft
4th & MONDAY: Our NFL newsletter always brings the blitz
The Browns have been laughingstocks for losing. Now that they are positioned to keep progressing, they are suddenly poised for being the butt of jokes for another reason as this “dream team” scenario looks so much like a precursor to a big letdown.
Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps Freddie Kitchens, still on the verge of calling the shots in his first NFL game as a head coach, is the next Paul Brown. Suppose Mayfield is the next Otto Graham. What if Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb produce like Jim Brown. OK like Byner and Mack.
Or maybe these Browns will prove to be good enough to forge their own identities, which might include a “we-told-you-so” swagger.
Kitchens, the team’s 11th coach (including two interims) since the Browns were revived in 1999, undoubtedly has a unique challenge for a Cleveland coach when it comes to managing expectations, from inside and outside the building.
“I don’t mind expectations,” Kitchens said earlier this offseason. “I’ve never seen a team end up in the Super Bowl that didn’t have those expectations. So if that’s your goal … you better have those expectations.”
Kitchens added that the key is to not allow the hype to distract from the focus and hard work needed to provide the substance.
“Our goal is the Super Bowl,” he said. “But we’re not in the predicting business, either.”
Funny, but for all of the dominance the Patriots have had in winning six Super Bowls, you never hear bold proclamations. Humble pie seems to win in Foxborough, where Belichick publicly hails — and behind closed doors, too, they say — every upcoming opponent with respect that sounds as if they are the Green Bay Packers of the Vince Lombardi era.
Yet the Browns, with their place on the NFL relevance map stamped with three prime-time appearances among their first five games this season, already are seemingly formulating a different type of culture.
Consider how Beckham put it to GQ, talking about Mayfield: “I would say he’s next, but I feel like he’s now. He’s Brett Favre — he’s going to be a Hall of Famer.”
Don’t blame Beckham for expressing confidence in the man who will be throwing him passes. It would be a bigger mess if he called him a bum. It’s just the optics of it all. Mayfield is still “next,” OBJ, until he wins a few times in January. A Hall call? If all of the players over the years destined for Canton were actually enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, they’d have to expand the place to Akron. Declaring people for Canton is not how relevance is won.
Unless, of course, you count that the Browns lead the NFL in bulletin board material. The Patriots, Chiefs, Steelers and Ravens, like the Titans, the Browns' season-opening opponent, could be laughing about now.
Remember, since the NFL realigned divisions in 2002, here’s the scorecard on AFC North titles: Steelers 8, Ravens 5, Bengals 4, Browns 0.
Kitchens and GM John Dorsey could have worse problems while rolling as the next-and-now new Browns' brain trust. Hope and hype are fueled by the influx of game-changing talent, aided by the cache of high draft picks and cap room left by the Sashi Brown-led regime. Yet talent alone hardly wins. Chemistry matters. And it’s up to the power brokers at the top to set the tone as the Browns have quickly morphed from feel-good darlings to annoying bull's-eye target.
It brings to mind a chat last summer with Nate Newton, an all-pro guard for the Dallas Cowboys during the 1990s, when they won three Super Bowls over four years. Those Cowboys, stocked with the “Triplets” — Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin — saw it coming, too.
As the 1992 season approached, before the first crown was won, Newton and his fellow O-linemen were so poised to cash in that they coined a moniker, “The Wall,” and struck a deal with Drew Pearson’s apparel company for hats and other merchandise bearing the catchphrase.
Then Jimmy Johnson caught wind of the plans.
“We were on the verge, but we hadn’t done anything yet,” Newton recalled to USA TODAY on Tuesday. “Jimmy came to us, in a nice way, and said, ‘Let’s not put it out there yet. Just hold off. And if we win big, I’ll buy a whole box of hats!’
“Jimmy didn’t want to bring any undue attention until we had done something.”
They won three Super Bowls, but Newton laments, “Jimmy never did buy those hats. He still owes us.”
Newton, now a Cowboys-centric analyst for ESPN Radio 103.3 FM in Dallas, considers himself “old school” when it comes to players engaging in hype — which he and his teammates from the ’90s surely took to a high level as they won big — but senses a different landscape in today’s NFL.
“It’s today’s society, bro,” Newton said. “I hate to say it, but a lot of it comes with building your brand. And social media has taken this to another level. I don’t hold it against guys for saying things to increase their visibility. … They may as well build their brand, because the NFL will build their brand off of them. They’re not waiting.
“Everybody wants to stick with the old rules — wait until you do something. But it’s a new age.”
If the Browns can turn all of the hype into championships that, too, would be so new age.
Source: Read Full Article