One year ago in Week 17, the Cleveland Browns were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers junior varsity team, with aspirations of avoiding the second 0-16 season in NFL History. Despite a strong effort from then-rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer and the rest of the Orange and Brown squad, they ultimately fell short. How fitting it was for 2016 first round pick Corey Coleman to drop a pass on fourth down to end any Browns chance of claiming victory. Coleman, after all, was the player Cleveland elected to draft after passing on highly-touted quarterback prospect Carson Wentz (We have all heard this before). The player the Browns passed on sealed the fate of Sashi Brown after becoming a franchise quarterback in the blink of an eye. Looking back on that move now, maybe it was actually for the better.
Coming up short has been one narrative that has loomed around a once doomed franchise with no hope of finding a positive football identity. The jokes wrote themselves, the players gave no effort, and ownership was a laughing stock. The laughter from around the league rang loudly that January day, as the Haslam’s confirmed their decision to bring Hue Jackson back after a career record of 1-31 coaching the Browns. That was how 2018 began, not how 2018 will end.
2018 has been an interesting year for Cleveland’s football team, to say the least. Among the many thrilling storylines over the last year, the most prominent ones are the Browns becoming “America’s Team” after appearing on Hard Knocks, the organization finally finding a franchise quarterback, firing Jackson mid-season, and the most recent one — winning five out of their last seven football games and reshaping a new narrative of Cleveland Browns football.
Under the leadership of “football guy” general manager John Dorsey, the Browns have real football players. Since Dorsey’s hiring in November of 2017, he has weathered a once known shit storm into a thunderstorm with the Browns lightning striking every Sunday.
If there is one thing that we have learned this season is Dorsey has some pretty big balls. The white sweater wearing with the Browns watermark across the chest, Brownie the elf hat, gum chopping leader of the Browns has shown he is not afraid to make some gutsy moves. The gutsiest move of them all was when he decided to draft the six-foot, crotch grabbing, once arrested, firey, and passionate quarterback by the name of Baker Mayfield first overall. Seven months later, Mayfield has zapped new life in the Cleveland Browns football franchise by winning seven games — or as Dorsey would say, waking the sleeping giant.
Dorsey and Mayfield seem to be a match made in Heaven, and one that has the Dawg Pound echoing towards the Heavens after every win. The Cleveland Browns are no longer your push over football team that they once were, and that is because of none other than Dorsey and Mayfield.
In just over a year of being the general manager of the Browns, Dorsey has taken a 0-16 football team and made them one of the NFL’s most promising for year’s to come. He has signed the right players, drafted the right guys, and established a dream team of executives in the front office. These moves have positioned the Browns for long-term success and set themselves up to contend for the AFC North year-in and year-out.
Mayfield, the guy that Dorsey’s name will forever be attached to, the guy that will make or break his job, and the guy that has Dorsey’s entire credibility on the line, has done nothing but win on a team that previously had no clue of how to win. As Jake Burns put it last Sunday, December 23, Mayfield has the entire city eating out of the palm of his hand.
A once pessimistic fan base with their hope relying on potential draft picks, unqualified coaches, and plenty of different regimes has instilled all their hope and energy into one guy and that is Mayfield. It is so easy to look at it this way, but it is true. After LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time, Cleveland was once again looking for a superstar to rally around and make their own. Mayfield has become that guy and now has a chance to exceed the love of the other guy (James). After all, Cleveland is a football town — and now a city with its football team reborn.
One year later, the Browns are 7-7-1 and walking into M&T Bank Stadium with an opportunity to finally stick it to the city and the team that previously stole the city of Cleveland’s football franchise. The Baltimore Ravens’ season is on the line and the Browns have a team that has never looked more ready to defeat one of the hottest team’s in all of football.
The Ravens have a little bit of new life on their own, with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson becoming another one of the league’s exciting young players. One year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, etc. this stage would have been to big for the Cleveland Browns, but it is not anymore — and that is because of Dorsey and Mayfield.
How nice it is at this time of year to be writing about a damn good football team in a meaningful football game instead of talking draft picks, potential free agent quarterbacks, and who the next general manager or coach will be (well, one half of that last part is figured out). So much has changed over the last year and as a result, the Browns are one of the most exciting teams in all of football.
A season of exceeding expectations will end with one last expectation that hopes to be exceeded. The Browns have an opportunity to put an exclamation point on one of hell of a run and for once, there is a feeling that they will not come up short. And the best part of all, is that run is not near being over — it is just beginning.
What better way to end one crazy swing of a year then to eliminate the Ravens from the postseason and walk in to 2019 with a four-game winning streak. That opportunity sits in none other than the hands of Mayfield, with Dorsey watching. The sleeping giant has been awaken and it is time for the rest of the NFL to become shaken.