The Browns Are No Longer the NFL’s Punchline

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Welcome to the Twilight Zone. A world where not only are the Cleveland Browns winning, they’re doing so with attitude.

While everyone is admittedly shocked about the first part of that sentence, it’s the latter some seem to have a problem with.

Ever since the Browns thoroughly dismantled the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday, more than a few members of the NFL world have been wringing their hands about the team’s sudden burst of cockiness. It’s one thing to win, they’ve said, it’s the flair which comes with it that’s a problem.

I can’t say I know what to make of all the griping. Maybe the NFL wasn’t ready for this yet. Maybe everyone saw the Browns get off to a decent start this year before losing their next four games and assumed things had been restored to their natural order. Maybe everyone deemed the team’s mid-season firing of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley as confirmation these were indeed the same old Browns, and are now thrown off by the fact the team is showing life.

Whatever it is, there seem to be a sizable amount of people upset with how Cleveland is winning.

To that, all I have to say is “too damn bad.”

If you’re going to be upset with this team’s newfound swagger, if you’re going to complain about the Browns winning with a little arrogance, there’s not much else I can tell you. This team is on the verge of ending their time as a league-wide punchline, whether you’re ready for it or not.

Based on some of the feedback seen since Sunday’s win, it’s fair to assume a good amount of people weren’t prepared to see Cleveland flex as much as it did against the Bengals. Seeing safety Damarious Randall hand an intercepted ball over to his former coach and current Bengals special assistant, hearing Jabrill Peppers talk endless trash to opposing players, these kinds of things appear to have caught some in the NFL community off guard. I can only imagine that’s why there were complaints about the Browns being classless, or winning like jerks.

That said, part of the reason these players are adding a little flair to their wins is the fact the people who are giving soapbox sermons about how to win with class are the same ones who’ve spent the past two decades dumping on Cleveland football.

The men in the Browns’ locker room have heard constant jokes about their team. They know the rest of the league has treated games against Cleveland as extra bye weeks. The mockery has been ongoing since 1999, and was set to continue when it appeared this year’s Browns were drifting back towards the cellar of the AFC North.

Only instead of trudging through another lost season, this team is showing life, and doing so with an edge we haven’t seen in decades. As a result, those same people who’ve jumped at the chance to mock Cleveland are now wagging their finger and trying to critique this team for not playing nice.

Essentially, you’re seeing the kind of reaction which comes from a bully catching a counter punch he never saw coming. Not only are the Browns no longer a pushover, they’re going out of their way to let you know this.

Cleveland is ready to push back. The team knows it can talk trash now because it finally has the talent to back it up. They’re going to try and kick your ass, and then they’re going to rub your nose in it.

Apparently, that’s a problem. Apparently, some feel as though this is a little over the top. Apparently, the brash behavior of quarterback Baker Mayfield needs to be toned down.

Call it speaking from bias, but I can’t even begin to understand why people are suddenly up in arms about how the Browns are winning.

We’re talking about a team which has set the standard in embarrassment for almost 20 straight years. Some players within that locker room came into this year experiencing just one win in two years. Simply put, it’s a team which hasn’t tasted too much victory lately, much less doing so with style.

It’s also a team which now looks prime for a breakout.

The Browns aren’t a finished product just yet. Betting on them to win out this season is still a lofty expectation.

However, the days of poking fun at the hapless Browns appear to be on the verge of ending. If you have a problem with this, well, you’ll just have to deal with it.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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