The Cleveland Browns have been bombarded with criticism over the course of the past six months for supposedly underperforming during the 2019 season. After finishing the 2018 season on a 5-2 winning streak, their only two losses coming to winning teams, expectations were raised, and the stakes only increased after a big free agency period.
Having already acquired a Pro Bowl wide receiver in Jarvis Landry the year before, the team went out and got Odell Beckham, Jr. last offseason to pair with him, giving young quarterback Baker Mayfield, on paper, a very talented tandem to target. On paper, they had a solid season, but it was far from the greatest show on earth.
Many issues went into this, but it can’t be ignored that both players spent literally the entire season playing through injuries. Beckham already went under the knife a month ago to repair a muscle core injury around his hip and groin the limited him all season.
Landry had previously said that he was not going to have surgery, but he changed his mind, apparently, having hip surgery. Perhaps he got a second opinion somewhere down the line. Either way, he is expected to be sidelined for most of the offseason, into training camp.
Similar to last offseason, Mayfield will not have on-field access to his two biggest weapons, which will make it that much more difficult to establish a rapport. In the meantime, the Browns will be installing a new offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, so they will have to make accommodations to get themselves acclimated without practice for a while.
Entering the 2019 season, the Browns were seen by Las Vegas as the betting favorite to win the AFC North. They even had solid odds of winning the Super Bowl, and Mayfield was listed with odds to win the MVP Award. It’s safe to say that none of those things happened.
Cleveland, in fact, finished the 2019 season with a worse record than the year before, going 6-10, with the most significant event of their year being Myles Garrett assaulting Mason Rudolph on the field, and their former coach making himself out to be a clown with his novelty t-shirt.
So much of the roster, coaching staff, and front office has been gutted since then. Even their primary left tackle for the past two seasons was just arrested for trying to transport 157 pounds of marijuana across the US-Mexico border.
So we face yet another season in which we hear the question asked, will this be the year the Browns turn it around? History says no, but it has to happen sooner or later, doesn’t it? At least this time they have some talent on the roster, and a shared vision between the front office and coaching staff—arguably something they’ve lacked previously, at least simultaneously.