The off-season is a time for speculation. Each team changes at least slightly and hopes to build on last season’s successes or correct last season’s failures. Expectations change as the rosters do. Analysts and fans alike make bold claims across the board simply trying to whet their football appetites before the season kicks off this fall.
That off-season break in the action could be possible for some of the buzz surrounding the Browns. Everybody does love a good underdog story, and the Browns certainly fit that profile. That said, it seems some have taken the hypothetical thinking to an extreme level.
Take NFL Live’s James Jones, for example. During a segment last week Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew, both former NFL talents, discussed the potential wins and losses for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. Jones, and Jones-Drew to a lesser extent, picked the Browns to sweep the Steelers. That’s right, two former NFL players stated that the team that has won one game in two seasons will sweep a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Focusing on Reality
It is not that the Browns cannot sweep the Steelers. Sure, there is a chance that the Browns could sweep the Steelers, win the division, and do all sorts of crazy things. Yet, is it likely? No, and the definitiveness with which Jones spoke is not indicative of the reality of Cleveland’s situation.
Browns fans should be incredibly optimistic about their team. The roster, staff, and overall vibe of the organization have tremendously improved. The team also may have found the ever-elusive franchise quarterback in first overall pick Baker Mayfield (only time will tell).
That said, the franchise went 1-31 over the past two seasons and has not had a winning season since 2007 (finished 10-6). That level of mediocrity does not just vanish after one great off-season. The team will be much better, but reason should be applied here as much as possible. Fans and analysts must think for a second about where this franchise has been.
The Browns winning five or six games in 2018 should be considered a success. The Browns winning seven to nine games should be a pleasant surprise. Anything greater, and it would be one of the single-greatest NFL turnaround stories potentially ever. A team does not go from 0-16 to staking a claim as a pseudo-contender. I do believe the team will improve greatly, but lofty expectations can lead to frustration and a failure to recognize what improvements are really there. My advice to Browns fans? Do not overhype the wins, do not panic with the losses, and try your best to enjoy the ride.