top of page
Search

The Browns Are Back, Aren’t They?

By:  Jenn B

Origins Date: 3/17/24


Hello, IE Sports Radio Fans! It’s Jenn B, host of The Show of The Land. Let’s talk about the Browns, baby!

The Cleveland Browns finished the 2023-2024 NFL football season with a record of 11-6 and a playoff appearance as the top Wild Card team in the AFC. It is hard to believe that after losing starting RT Jack Conklin in week 1, starting RB Nick Chubb in week 2, starting QB Deshaun Watson in week 3 for two games (then again in week 7 for 1.75 games, then again following week 10 for the remainder of the season), and numerous other injuries throughout the season resulting in over 26% of the salary cap being on IR by week 18, that this team could not only make the playoffs, but clinch a playoff berth in week 17 AND vie for the AFC North title up until week 17. After this crazy season of Cleveland Browns’ football, is it safe to say, the Browns are back?

1995-2017

Before we explore the answer to this question, we must first understand where the “new” Browns started. Back in 1995, the now infamous former Browns owner Art Modell chose to devastate the city by moving the team to Baltimore due a dispute with the city over a new stadium. As part of this move, Modell was NOT allowed to take the Browns name, colors, or their storied history – which includes 8 championships, numerous hall of famers, and will be featured in a temporary exhibit at the NFL Hall of Fame beginning March 15, 2024 titled “A Legacy Unleashed”. Basically, he was allowed to relocate the players and create a new team, now known as the Baltimore Ravens (I was just 16 years old when this happened. Prior to this, my parents were season ticket holders. I cried like a baby when the ’95 season was over). In order to make such a move, it must be approved by a majority vote by the other team owners. Only 2 owners voted against: Art Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills (I will ALWAYS have the highest respect for these two organizations, even though one is a divisional rival).


In 1999, Cleveland was allowed to add an expansion team to replace the team that was lost in the move. Hence the term “new” Browns. These Browns started with an expansion draft, as is customary for new franchises. The team was not all that great, BUT that did not matter much to Browns fans who had desperately missed having a football team over the preceding 3 seasons. In fact, many Browns fans chose to stop watching NFL football until the league brought a team to the city. From 1999-2017, the Browns recorded an overall record of 88-216. This record includes just 2 seasons with an above .500 record, in ’02 and ’07. It also includes 2 seasons which resulted in the now infamous Hue Jackson Day, 1-31 (see below). During this time, the Browns underwent 3 changes in ownership:  Al Lerner, Randy Lerner and finally, Dee & Jimmy Haslam (the current owners). They also had 9 different GMs, 9 different head coaches and an astounding 28 different starting quarterbacks during this time (see below).

Browns Record by Season: 1999-2017*Year Wins Losses1999 – 2 142000 – 3 132001 – 7 92002 – 9 72003 – 5 112004 – 4 122005 – 6 102006 – 4 122007 – 10 62008 – 4 122009 – 5 112010 – 5 112011 4 122012 5 112013 4 122014 7 92015 3 132016 1 152017 0 16*Source: Clevelandbrowns.com

Browns starting quarterbacks by season since 1999Source: Cleveland Browns quarterback history: Every starting QB since 1999 (usatoday.com)• 1999 — Tim Couch, Ty Detmer• 2000 — Couch, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn• 2001 — Couch• 2002 — Couch, Kelly Holcomb• 2003 — Couch, Holcomb• 2004 — Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown• 2005 — Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye• 2006 — Frye, Derek Anderson• 2007 — Anderson, Frye• 2008 — Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski• 2009 — Anderson, Quinn• 2010 — Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace• 2011 — McCoy, Wallace• 2012 — Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis• 2013 — Weeden, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer• 2014 — Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw• 2015 — Manziel, Josh McCown, Austin Davis• 2016 — J. McCown, Cody Kessler, Robert Griffin III• 2017 — DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan

Seeing the craziness and inconsistency that was the Cleveland Browns from 1999-2017, it was difficult for Browns fans to believe that the franchise could ever return the winning ways fans, who were around prior to 1995, were accustomed to. This era of losing football resulted in nicknames and phrases such as: Mistake on the Lake, Same Ole Browns, Factory of Sadness, The Cleveland Clowns, Browns is the Browns or Cleveland is Cleveland. How would this league-wide view of the Cleveland Browns ever change?

Advertisements


REPORT THIS AD

2018-2019

Cleveland entered 2018 with the number 1 overall pick (for the 2nd year in a row) and hope, even though they opted to stick with GM John Dorsey and HC Hue Jackson. The team had selected star DE Myles Garrett the previous year (as well as ascending TE David Njoku), and now had the chance to secure their franchise QB. Drumroll, please…with the number 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, the Browns select: QB Baker Mayfield. The Browns would also draft CB Denzel Ward in the 1st round & RB Nick Chubb in the 2nd round. There were mixed feelings about this QB pick throughout the fanbase, but he was THE GUY Dorsey wanted, so most fans opted to trust Dorsey’s decision. Following the draft, it was announced that Baker Mayfield would not be the starter as the Browns had also acquired Tyrod Taylor in the off season. Shockingly (insert sarcasm here), Taylor was not the answer and ended up injured very early in the 2018 season.

Enter Baker Mayfield! He played well when he took over following Taylor’s injury and remained the starter even after Taylor was healthy. The Browns finished with a record of 7-8-1. Hue Jackson was fired in season (ending his tenure with a record of 3-36-1), and DC Gregg Williams was named interim HC. Queue yet another coaching search. From 2018-2019, though the Browns would only use 2 starting QBs (Taylor & Mayfield). John Dorsey would remain GM, and they would change HCs 3 times while recording an overall record of 13-18-1. Fans remained unsure if this team would ever get back to winning football. At end of the 2019 season, both John Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens were relieved of their duties, triggering yet another GM and HC search.

2020-2022

The 2020 Cleveland Browns started the season with a new GM, Andrew Berry, and a new HC, Kevin Stefanski. Browns fans hoped these changes would lead to winning and the LONG-desired consistency suffering Browns fans SO rightly deserved! Browns fans would not be disappointed with the 2020 season, despite the setbacks and overall insanity of the COVID season. Baker Mayfield recorded the best QB rating of his career, at 95.9. The team finished the season with a record of 11-5 and a playoff berth. They went on to win their Wild Card game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, but unfortunately fell just short in the Divisional round, losing by 1 point to the Kansas City Chiefs. This was only the team’s 2nd playoff appearance since the 1999 return, the 1st coming in 2002. This also marked the team’s 1st playoff win since 1994! The 2020 season left Browns fans feeling that the tides were finally turning.

Hopes were high for the 2021 season: COVID restrictions lifted, mostly, a winning season under their belt…What could go wrong? In week 2 of the regular season, QB Baker Mayfield sustained an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. Though Mayfield played all-but 2 games, 2021 was his worst season since his ‘sophomore slump’ in 2019. The Browns finished with a disappointing 8-9 record, leaving Browns fans wondering, once again, will we ever get back what was lost in 1995?

During the following off season, the Browns made a controversial yet blockbuster trade acquiring QB Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans in exchange for their next 3 1st round picks (along with additional compensation). Cleveland then signed Watson to a league-changing $230 million, fully guaranteed contract. This move caused a huge schism throughout the Browns fan base. Some fans, who were big Baker Mayfield supporters, were devastated by this trade. Some fans were excited about what this could mean for the team. Some were abhorred by this move due to the looming off-field transgressions for which Watson was under investigation. The team made this trade knowing Watson would be suspended for part, if not all, of the 2022 season.


Following this deal, Baker requested to be traded (understandable) from the team which had just picked up his 5th year option. The Browns subsequently traded Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers; thus, ending the Baker Mayfield era in Cleveland (though a small portion of the fan base refuses to accept this, to this day). Over the summer of 2022, the NFL suspended Watson for the first 11 games of the regular season. The team signed free agent QB Jacoby Brissett to be the starter during Watson’s suspension. There, again, were mixed feelings about this. Though Brissett played well during the 11 games he started in Watson’s absence, the defensive performance was less than desirable, which lead to the firing of DC Joe Woods following the season.

Watson returned from suspension in week 13, playing the last 6 games of the season. At this point, Watson had not played for over 700 days and was understandably rusty. He finished with a 3-3 record and the Browns finished the season with another disappointing record of 7-10. Once again, fans were left wondering, will the disappointment ever end? As previously stated, Stefanski fired DC Joe Woods following a very underwhelming defensive performance throughout the season. The defense was so poor, star DE Myles Garrett spoke out against the coaching staff and reports began to surface of strife within the locker room. Many fans asked, will we ever stop being the laughingstock of the NFL and will we ever lose the moniker “same ole Browns”?

2023-Present

Not too far into the off season, the team announced the hiring of new DC Jim Schwartz. This hiring thrilled Browns fans, as Schwartz’s resume spoke for itself. He had led multiple defenses to huge improvements AND he was taking over a defense headlined by Myles Garrett! Watson was back and would participate in the entire off season/preseason as QB1. The Browns took a new approach and began training camp in West Virginia. The first 2 weeks of training camp were held at a resort in Greenbriar, WV, forcing the players to be together 24/7 with minimal outside distractions. Based on numerous accounts by players, coaches, and beat-reporters, this change helped to create a camaraderie among the players that had been sorely missing in prior seasons.

Also, in the off season, former LT Joe Thomas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. As a result, the Browns were selected to play in the Hall of Fame game, giving fans an additional chance to see the team perform in the preseason. The Browns played the Jets in this match-up, and came out victorious, though few (if any) starters played. Fans were elated and looking forward to the upcoming season. Unfortunately, this elation was short-lived. In the very first game of the year, RT Jack Conklin was lost for the season. Luckily, the Browns had selected RT Dawand Jones in the 4th round of the draft. Jones was a somewhat controversial pick, as many teams removed him from their draft boards following reports that football was not his 1st choice. Many wondered if Jones had the dedication necessary to be successful at the NFL level. It did not take long to see that Jones was not only ready, but exceeded expectations.

All hope was not lost. Then, in week 2 against division rival Pittsburgh, RB Nick Chubb sustained a season ending, catastrophic knee injury. The air was sucked from stadium and the team following the injury. The players were noticeably traumatized by the loss of Chubb and ended up losing the game. Following the game, the team vowed to “do it for Chubb” the rest of the season. Side note: This was especially devastating, because earlier in 2023, legendary RB Jim Brown had passed away. Following his passing, Chubb, who idolized the Hall of Fame RB, had dedicated his season to him. Following this injury, the Browns re-signed RB Kareem Hunt, who also vowed to “do it for Chubb”. All hope was not lost. Even though losing Nick Chubb was devastating, the Browns still had QB Deshaun Watson, WR Amari Cooper and the best offensive line in the league. Additionally, they had a top defense under Jim Schwartz and behind DE Myles Garrett.


The Browns next faced the Tennessee Titans and won in resounding fashion, 27-3. Watson had the best game of his short Browns career. Hopes were high, until it was announced that Watson had suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder in this game and would miss time with a strained rotator cuff. Thankfully, Cleveland had an early bye week in week 5. Fans, players and coaches alike were hopeful Watson could return to action following the bye. Unfortunately, he did not. Watson made his return in week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts, only to leave the game in the 1st quarter. Watson would not officially return until week 9. The Browns did manage to go 2-2 (with Dorian Thompson-Robinson “DTR” and PJ Walker taking turns at the helm) in the 4 games Watson missed, keeping hope alive.

In Watson’s return, the Browns faced the struggling Arizona Cardinals and Watson recorded his 1st shutout with a 27-0 victory. The next game was away against the division rival Baltimore Ravens. This was the test Browns fans had been waiting for, to see if Watson really is ‘the guy’! Watson led a 4th quarter comeback to beat the Ravens 33-31. Browns fans were overjoyed. The team, led by Watson, had beat the division leading Ravens, in Baltimore no less. Just as fans were starting to truly believe that things were headed in the right direction, the team announced that Watson had suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during the Ravens game. This was not a re-aggravation, but a new injury in the form of a broken bone in his shoulder that would require surgery. The “There’s always next season” ramblings began, yet again.

The team was 6-3 and well seated in the playoff hunt, but could they continue to win with 5th round pick DTR and PJ Walker playing QB? DTR was named the starter following the injury announcement. DTR went on to beat division rival Pittsburgh 13-10. Browns fans wondered, will we be okay? Can we still have a winning season? The team then signed free agent QB Joe Flacco to the practice squad. Yes, the former Super Bowl MVP was signed to the practice squad. The following game was in Denver against a struggling but resurging Broncos. DTR and PJ Walker split the start and came up short. Flacco was slated to start the next game against the LA Rams. Could he save the Browns season? Browns fans didn’t know how to feel about this, as Flacco had been a thorn in the Browns side for many years as the starter for the hated Baltimore Ravens.

The Browns were not able to overcome the Rams, falling 36-19. Once again, “There’s always next season” ramblings were heard throughout the fan base and the league. However, Flacco would win the next 4 games, the last of which was against the NY Jets in week 17 to clinch a playoff berth. During this stretch, DTR would suffer a season-ending injury and the Browns would lose even more players to IR, including LB Anthony Walker Jr, S Rodney McLeod, S Grant Delpit, LT Jedrick Wills & RT Dawand Jones. Having clinched a playoff berth, the Browns sat many starters in preparation of the Wild Card round, resulting in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the final game of the season. With many players nursing injuries (WR Amari Cooper, S Juan Thornhill; CBs Denzel Ward & Greg Newsome, LG Joel Bitonio to name a few), this was the best decision.

Cleveland finished the season 11-6 and the 5th seed in the AFC. The Browns accomplished this with over 26% of their salary cap on IR and while starting 5 different QBs (the 5th being Jeff Driskel, who signed after the DTR injury). A truly unbelievable season. The Browns had 4 players and coaches in the final 5 for year-end AP awards: Kevin Stefanski for Coach of the Year (if won, it would be his 2nd – he won following the 2020 season), Jim Schwartz for Assistant Coach of the Year, Myles Garrett for Defensive Player of the Year and Joe Flacco for Comeback Player of the Year. All four candidates went on to win said awards. Kevin Stefanski is only the 2nd Browns HC to win the award (previously won by Forrest Gregg in 1976) and the 1st to win it twice! He beat out Texans HC DeMeco Ryans by just 1 vote. The feat of carrying the Browns to the playoffs given all the injuries and resulting roster changes is truly remarkable.


Jim Schwartz helped to improve the defense from 23rd overall in 2022 to #1 overall in 2023. Myles Garrett became the 1st Browns player ever to be awarded the AP DPOY, beating out Pittsburgh’s TJ Watt and Dallas’s Micah Parsons. This was met with controversy, as many felt Garrett was undeserving of thw award (namely Steelers fans/TJ Watt supporters). Watt did record higher stats in most areas, but the impact Garrett has on the field in indisputable. Co-finalist Micah Parsons has come out in defense of Garrett winning this award, saying, “He was the better player.” Most offensive coordinators and QBs alike dread facing the Browns because it means they have to game plan for Garrett. He has out-shined the top the LTs in the league constantly throughout his career. Hell, the Titans even had 2 TEs shadowing Garrett in their game. He is rarely met with one-on-one match-ups, as he is generally double-teamed and at times, triple teamed. And let’s not forget the game against the Colts where Garrett leapt over the center without making contact or using any leverage, to block a field goal! As for Joe Flacco winning Comeback Player of the Year, I will let that one lie. I will just say, I did not expect that he would win, but am happy for him and do believe he was deserving.

Cleveland went on to play the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round, but fell short to end their season. Following the loss, the Browns chose to part ways with OC Alex Van Pelt, RB Coach Stump Mitchell and TE coach T.C. McCartney. To me, this says that Stefanski recognizes that though there were improvements, the offense did not perform at the level it should have and changes /new perspectives are needed, much as was the case with the defense following the 2022 season. The Browns have since hired former Browns QB Ken Dorsey as OC (see list above), former NFL RB Duce Staley as RB Coach and former Alabama OC Tommy Rees as TE Coach/Pass-Game Specialist. The team also made a change on the defensive side, recognizing that the run defense was not quite as good as it could be, replacing DL Coach Ben Bloom with former Texans DL Coach Jacques Cesaire.

The changes would continue, as it was then announced beloved OL Coach Bill Callahan opted to join his son, Brian, in Tennessee (Brian Callahan was hired by the Titans to replace Mike Vrabel). Cleveland hired former Seattle Seahawks OL Coach Andy Dickerson (who had previously been interviewed during the OC search) to replace Callahan, and former Philadelphia Eagles Assistant OL Coach Roy Istvan to replace Scott Peters, who is expected to join Van Pelt in New England. Deshaun Watson spoke recently about the revamped offensive staff, saying he was excited to get started with Dorsey and reiterated his praise for Stefanski. Dorsey and Watson have spoken, but they have not yet met in person as Watson is still in LA working through his rehab. Watson did post on IG that he has begun throwing reps, which bodes well for the QB’s return during preseason prep for the 2024 season.

So…Is it safe to say the Browns are back? Only time will tell; however, this team made many strides throughout the 2023 season, and they continue to make strides into the off season with the new coaching hires and player trades/signings. The atmosphere around the team has changed for the better. Players are playing with a fire we have not seen in quite some time. The camaraderie in this locker room is undeniable! Players who joined the team in 2023 have commented on how close the guys are, such as Joe Flacco, who was accepted with open arms when he joined the team late in the season. Kevin Stefanski has shown again and again his ability to be a leader of men and to adapt to the ever-changing nature of the NFL. He is also the 1st non-interim coach since Marty Schottenheimer (’84-’88) to have a winning record for the Browns (Gregg Williams had a winning record, but he was only HC for 8 games following the mid-season firing of Hue Jackson in 2018) The team has shown great consistency over the last few years.


Entering the 2024 season, Stefanski will be the 1st coach since the teams return to earn a 5th year as HC, and all signs are pointing to Stefanski and GM Andrew Berry receiving contract extensions; signaling that consistency will remain key. Things are definitely trending in the right direction in Cleveland, and I am ready to say, with conviction, THE BROWNS ARE BACK! Watch out AFC, we’re coming for you! Tune in to the Show of the Land, hosted by Jenn B, on Tuesdays at 6PM EST/5PM CST. Be sure to check out all of the other shows on our network throughout the week. Shout out to our sponsors and all you loyal listeners that continue to help our network grow. Thank you for reading, and we will see you next time on IE Sports Radio; your direct feed for ALL that is sports.

Sources:

2 views0 comments

Hozzászólások


bottom of page