I like the moves the Cleveland Browns have been making this offseason. Their flurry of trades from last Friday, coupled with numerous depth signings this week have been met with mostly positive reviews from just about every corner of the league. I certainly won’t rain on any of them, as each acquisition seemed to improve a roster which was devoid of talent last year.
However, I refuse to board the hype train. I won’t buy into the idea of Cleveland being vastly better next season. I’m not even going to invest in the “Browns might finally be turning the corner” talk many, both in the media and team fan-base, have been floating these days.
My stance will stay the same even if Cleveland nails every one of its picks in the upcoming draft. It’ll stay this way even if the team looks improved during training camp, or if it puts forth another undefeated preseason.
Simply put – I’ve seen this movie before. The offseason hype is always followed by one hell of a drop-off. For this reason alone, I’m waiting until the Browns take the field before buying into their newfound praise.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll take columns lauding Cleveland for making savvy moves over another update about how toxic the franchise has become any day of the week. Having friends and family tell me they think the Browns might even be playoff-bound this season is a vast improvement over “what’s it like to watch your team fail to win a single game?”
Enjoying this talk and believing it are two different things, though.
As mentioned, much of my refusal to get too excited about this team and it’s shiny, new front office comes from past experience. I’ve been burned before. I’ve been guilty of drinking the punch after the Browns made some impressive offseason moves, of thinking this was finally the moment they turned things around and ended their time as a league-wide laughing stock.
Every single time this occurred, the fall from grace was swift and painful.
The 2008 offseason comes to mind. Fresh off an inexplicable 10-6 campaign, Cleveland made a handful of attention-grabbing moves, such as trading for defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and signing wideout Donte Stallworth. Pundits from ESPN were picking the Browns as a potential Super Bowl contender.
Said team finished the next season 4-12. The front office and coaching staff were fired. Four different quarterbacks took the field before the year was over. Stallworth’s most notable moment with the team involved vehicular manslaughter.
I also bought in after the 2014 draft. New GM Ray Farmer sent shockwaves through the league by netting a top cornerback in Justin Gilbert, a controversial-but-talented QB in Johnny Manziel and an extra first-round pick for the following year. The Browns were relevant again, and finally looked as though they understood the draft process.
Of the entire group of players selected in the 2014 first round, only two are unemployed. Both were drafted by Farmer. Two years later, neither Gilbert nor Manziel would be on the team. The latter’s insertion into the starting lineup derailed the following season in which Cleveland was, at one point, boasting 7-4 record.
These are just two examples which come to mind, but certainly not the only instances of buying into the Browns offseason hype. I celebrated the Hue Jackson hire, felt the team was ahead of the curve when introducing the analytics approach and, hell, even remember thinking new ownership was going to save this franchise.
Jackson is 1-31, and still inexplicably employed. Moneyball was thrown out the window in less than two years. Since buying the team in 2012, Jimmy Haslam has fired four front offices and three coaching staffs.
I’m not saying this offseason will end the same way every other one has. I’m not trying to convince you new GM John Dorsey‘s moves will result in yet another failure. I’m not here to explain why every signing and draft pick made will end up being a bust.
All I’m doing is telling you why, when seeing another pundit claim the Browns might be figuring it out, I’m respectfully holding off the excitement.
I’d love to get on board, I truly would. The idea of this moribund franchise finally escaping the dumpster it’s been trapped in for two decades is something I wouldn’t even know how to react to.
Until I see it, though, I won’t believe it’s on the verge of happening.
Again, I’m incredibly intrigued with the moves Dorsey has been making. If, come next season, they actually lead to success, only then will I be convinced this team is actually on the right track for once.