The Cleveland Browns had not posted a winning record before the 2020 season since 2007. They had not reached the postseason before this year since 2002. They had not won a postseason game before this season since 1994. With another win this weekend, they can reach the conference finals for the first time since 1989.
And make no mistake, that is their goal. This Browns team, despite its immediate history of ineptitude, does not view itself as being in an incubation period. There are no training wheels here. They believe in their ability to win now, and failure to do so will be viewed as failure generally.
“Obviously, we are very excited as an organization to be preparing for the divisional round against the Chiefs”, said first-year general manager Andrew Berry. “With that being said, that is not our destination and that is not our final goal”.
In case you need a remainder, the Browns have never been to the Super Bowl, ever, and are one of the very few teams remaining who have never made it at least that far. Of course, they have a number of championship titles dating back prior to the Super Bowl era, including seven in their first 10 years of existence. Their most recent title came in 1964.
More recent history hasn’t been very favorable. It started with the original organization moving and becoming the Baltimore Ravens, but the league retained the rights and records of the ‘Cleveland Browns’ with the move when the new team was installed in 1999—since which, they have had just three non-losing seasons. And their 11-5 record of this year is the best they have done since then.
“We had high expectations for ourselves coming into the year”, Berry told reporters, just a year after having gone 6-10 (Berry was not with the organization at the time, nor was first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski). “We thought that we had the right individuals within our organization where we could have success this year, but it always has to come together. You have to come together as a team”.
“That is the case year over year, regardless of how players carry over”, he went on. “We had high expectations internally, but we also realized that we really had to do the work and stay focused on a week-to-week basis, and if that part of the process could be taken care of, we thought that the results would come”.
Sad as it is to say, the Browns, as well as the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals, appear to on the rise in the AFC North, while the Pittsburgh Steelers are at a crossroads right now, and must figure out how they can stay competitive.