For nearly two decades, the Cleveland Browns have been a team without an identity, known only for constant losing and an unending line of failed quarterbacks and draft picks. For all intents and purposes, it’s been a long time since this franchise had anyone you could remotely refer to as a cornerstone player.
Thanks to Myles Garrett, it’s starting to look like this may no longer be the case. In the Browns’ terrifying edge rusher, they may have finally found a player who can make an impact for years to come.
If asked to name some of the best players Cleveland has had since 1999, you’d find the list is both short and depressing. We’re talking about guys who lasted longer than a couple seasons, who became fan favorites for their consistently great play.
Frankly, I can’t get much farther than Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson. The concept of being asked to name marquee Browns players since 1999 and coming up with only a punt returner and a place kicker is sobering at best.
However, just 12 games into his professional career, Garrett is already threatening to have his name added to that list.
You don’t need to watch a game for long before realizing what Cleveland’s young pass rusher is bringing to the table. Garrett has already logged nine sacks in just 12 games across the past two years. Of his three forced fumbles, two of them came in last Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Garrett is back at full strength after fighting through injuries during his rookie year. The impact he’s making is typical of a cornerstone player, making a name for himself both in and outside the Browns’ locker room.
Internally, Cleveland finally has someone it knows it can build its defense around. As trivial as it sounds, it’s been a long time since this team could look at the roster on either side of the ball and feel an overwhelming sense of confidence in any player.
It can do so with Garrett. He’s quickly proving to be a cornerstone on defense, becoming an anchor for the front seven that the Browns know can be relied on every Sunday. Basically, the front office seeing his name on the depth chart can elicit a reaction of “we’re all set here.”
Outside of Cleveland, Garrett represents one of the few Browns players opponents must legitimately prepare for.
I can only imagine what pregame film studies have been like for any team prepping to play Cleveland over the past few years. It feels safe to assume very few were taken seriously, with the list of players who truly kept opponents on their toes short, if not nonexistent.
Opposing teams can’t afford to scoff when it comes to game-planning for Garrett. Just ask the Steelers, who felt his presence all Sunday afternoon. With six tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles, Garrett let everyone in the NFL know you’ll need to set aside extra time to figure out how to stop him on game day.
Saying such a thing about a Browns player isn’t something I’m used to.
Not only has Garrett quickly become a marquee player for Cleveland, he also provides the team with some much-needed draft morale.
Mocking the Browns’ failed draft picks has become quite a sad tradition, as this team specializes in passing on great players to invest in the wrong ones.
Such an instance almost happened with Garrett, as former front office head Sashi Brown was reportedly pushing for the team to draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky instead.
While this team is always trying to solve its QB woes, it undoubtedly would’ve regretted passing on someone as talented as Garrett. Unlike previous draft blunders, this was a Browns cautionary tale we didn’t have to witness.
A player Cleveland can build around, who demands constant attention from opponents, who can actually be labeled as a smart draft pick.
I can’t remember the last time any Browns player could be described this way. Well, before Myles Garrett, that is.