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The Cleveland Browns have long been the laughing stock of the NFL. Since the team re-entered the league, Cleveland has been a coaching and quarterback carousel. Freddie Kitchens is their 11th head coach since 1999. Meanwhile, QB Baker Mayfield looks to be the solution under center after a revolving door that included Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and more. They have been butt of the jokes, but it seems that may be changing.
The Browns were the second team ever to go 0-16, as they recorded the imperfect record in 2017. They began turning things around in that following offseason. They acquired receiver Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins, quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills, and safety Damarious Randall from the Green Bay Packers all on the same day. They proceeded to draft Baker Mayfield #1 in the 2018 NFL Draft, and defensive back Denzel Ward 4th overall.
The Browns began the season 0-1-1 after a season-opening tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers and a loss to the New Orleans Saints. In the third game against the New York Jets, Taylor left the game in the second quarter with a concussion. The rookie Mayfield lead the Browns to a comeback victory, their first since Christmas Eve 2016 against the then-San Diego Chargers. Mayfield remained the starter for the rest of the season, and the Browns finished with a 7-8-1 record. The team went 5-3 under interm head coach Gregg Williams, who replaced Hue Jackson mid-season.
So far this offseason, Cleveland has acquired Olivier Vernon from the New York Giants, as well as star receiver Odell Beckham Jr from NYG. They also added defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson in free agency. Not to be forgotten is running back Kareem Hunt, who signed a one-year deal a few months back. Hunt, previously with the Kansas City Chiefs, was recently suspended 8 games by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on domestic violence.
The Browns have work left to do. This is not a perfect team. They need to address the safety position after including Jabril Peppers in the deal for Beckham Jr. However, this is a playoff caliber team on paper. The only way this team fails to make the playoffs is if they get in the way of themselves. Beckham Jr and Landry are best friends, but are also two incredibly emotional players. Mayfield is also labeled as an emotional leader. There is nothing wrong with it, but sometimes emotions run high and can get in the way of progress.
Freddie Kitchens is a first-time head coach. While that is not an automatic cause for concern, see Sean McVay, it still raises some questions. How well can he control the locker room? How well can he keep the emotions in check? How will his coaching staff rally around him? Kitchens was a coordinator, but it was a small sample size. Can he handle such a fast rise through the coaching ranks?
The hype coming out of Cleveland is justified. This a city that hasn’t seen a winning football team in years, and now have reason to get excited. The team should be a playoff contender, however, there are obstacles in the way for every team. The obstacles for the Browns just happen to be internal, and right in front of their faces.
Featured Image: Todd Olszewski/Getty Images