Happy Tuesday, WFNY!
I hope everyone had an amazing Labor Day weekend! I know I did. And I certainly know the Cleveland Indians did as well. The Tribe have now won 12 straight games as they continue their scorching run despite battling a string of injuries. The AL Central lead is up to ten games, the Indians are four games clear of Boston for the 2 seed, and they are just three games back of the Houston Astros for the top spot in the American League.
While the Indians are hitting the stretch run of their season, the Cleveland Browns are preparing for the start of their own season this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The offseason is finally over. Brock Osweiler has been cut, trades have been made, players have been signed off waivers, and the 53-man roster is set. It’s time for regular season football!
For the Browns, this season is likely more about progress than anything else. Sure, winning the Super Bowl can be the ultimate goal for any team, and it would be pretty incredible if that happened for the Browns this season. But realistically, the goals have to be aligned a little more properly with expectations. That begs the question, though. What are the expectations for the Cleveland Browns this season?
Obviously, the floor for any expectations is two wins. After suffering through a 1-15 season in 2016, having another one-win or (heaven forbid) a winless season is not acceptable. The Browns have made a lot of moves under the watch of Sashi Brown to tear down what was there in the past and start building with youth and through the draft. Those results need to start panning out to some degree this season.
Yet the Browns are still a team with a rookie QB, a middle-of-the-road RB, and mostly unproven WRs. There are high hopes for a stout defense this season, but the offense is very much a work in progress. Without the ability to consistently move the ball and score points, it’s going to keep putting pressure on the defense and forcing them to be on the field more than they should. This is all a recipe for a lot of losses again this season.
So what is the ceiling for the Browns? I went through the schedule and I optimistically saw a route to a 6-10 record. I would be ecstatic to have a 6-10 season. In looking at this roster, it looks more like a 3-13 team to me. That would still be progress, but it would also illustrate just how far the Browns have to go.
This is the joy of this time before the start of the season, though. We can allow ourselves to dream and to have hope. We can ask ‘what if’ questions. What if DeShone Kizer is the real deal? What if Corey Coleman has a breakout season? What if Isaiah Crowell establishes himself as a legit feature back? What if the Browns’ defense takes a leap with stellar play from Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers and becomes a top-5 unit? What if all of these things happen and the Browns are the story of the NFL this season?
It could all happen, right? We know it probably won’t. We know what is more likely to happen. Kizer will be hurt in Week 1, Kessler will struggle and be inconsistent for a few weeks until he goes down around Week 6 or 7, then the parade of QBs begins. The WRs never do anything, Crowell is asked to do too much, and the defense will try mightily until they ultimately fall apart due to injuries and fatigue from being on the field all game.
That’s sadly a more likely outcome than the Browns having things come together and being the breakout story of the season. But this week? This week, we can allow ourselves to dream and to hope. I know the playoffs are the ultimate goal of any season and the thing everyone is working for and watching for, but I just love the beginning of new seasons in sports.
Perhaps it’s part of the condition of being a Cleveland sports fan. Most of the time, we don’t have the luxury of entering seasons with the hope and confidence of being a Championship team. We (mostly) jokingly claim the draft as our Super Bowl. But when a season starts, that’s the time we most often allow ourselves to imagine a better reality for our sports teams.
Following sports, we see time and time again stories of impossibility becoming fact. Cinderella shows up to the dance routinely. There is almost certainly going to be at least one surprise team in the NFL this year who nobody saw making the leap that they did. Every year, I go into the season expecting the worst but keeping my fingers crossed that maybe this time it will be the Cleveland Browns’ turn.
I don’t know what this season has in store for us. But I do know it’s easy to sometimes allow hindsight to guide our judgment. When we consider the value of a season after it’s over, we can forget what our expectations were coming into the season. I’ll be honest, I haven’t followed much in the way of experts’ picks for the Browns. I don’t know what expectations are from the outside looking in. But for me, personally, I’m expecting three wins, allowing for the possibility of six, and dreaming of nine.
But what about you guys? What are your expectations for the Browns this season? What does the team need to do in order to satisfy your base level of growth and progress for the team? What needs to happen for this to be a good season?
Whether the team meets those expectations or not, the regular season is finally here. Next week we’ll be breaking down the first game on WFNY. If that’s not enough to get you excited, I’m not sure what is. Go Browns!