CLEVELAND, Ohio: I’m talking about the Browns and – dare I write it – the Super Bowl?
QUESTION: Is Profootballfocus and is writer Sam Monson right about the Browns?
REPLY: Monson opened his story this way: “Every time you buy in the Cleveland Browns, you get burned. “
Question : Is he a Browns fan?
A: He’s not, but he’s seen enough of Cleveland crumble to believe that every time the wind blows and the house shakes, the roof is about to crumble on the Browns.
Question : So why did he write, “Here we go, looking at a team on paper that has the kind of strength to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs the Browns have come so close to upsetting in the playoffs.
A: He believes it. He also wrote: “Rational analysis says we should buy into the Browns, yet fool me once …”
Question : You don’t have the same fears?
A: Let’s start with what I’m not afraid of. I’m not worried about a debacle in 2019, where the Browns were expected to advance to the playoffs but finished 6-10. Or even a 1981 clunker, where the 1980 11-5 Kardiac Kids followed with a 5-11 record.
Question : Why not?
A: In 1980, the Browns won so many close games. In 1981, QB Brian Sipe was starting to feel the impact of injuries. He lost the strength of his arms. The defense collapses. I also believe there was an emotional impact on the team’s psyche following the Red Right 88’s playoff loss to Oakland.
Question : And 2019?
A: Too much inexperience of the coaching staff and a few problematic attitudes on the list. It’s a bad combination. CEO John Dorsey’s decision to turn his work and the team over to Freddie Kitchens was a disaster. Not only did he quarrel with some players, there was a clear disconnect between Kitchens and offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Question : This year is different because …
A. The front office / coach combination of Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski is connected. They’ve shown they can handle adversity – remember the early-season losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh? The Browns 11-5 have never lost two games in a row. Stefanski has never looked like a rookie coach, and he should continue to grow this season.
Question : What else?
A: It’s the Baker Mayfield / Stefanski combination. Profootballfocus (PFF) rates Mayfield as the NFL’s 10th QB. You can win big with a top-10 QB. The analysis site also wrote, “Mayfield was the league’s second-highest-rated quarterback in Week 7 of the playoffs. He’s also placed in the top five from a go-blank pocket, on standard drops and first downs for the entire season – all of which are important and stable indicators. Considering the offensive weapons Mayfield has around him and his offensive line’s 84.4 pass blocking rating last year, expect him to pick up where he left off for the season 2021.
Question : So you think …
A: There is more. Former Browns CEO Joe Banner wrote this for a website I like called 33rd Team:
“If you watched Cleveland’s offense last year, yes they have talent and the players played hard for him, but it’s the plan that has been a huge improvement. Baker Mayfield had by far the best TD-INT ratio (26-8) of his career and he saw a nearly 33% jump in his QBR from 2019. On the pitch, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt had their best seasons in Cleveland in terms of yards per carry in 2020. Stefanski absolutely came and gave the players in this offense a chance to maximize their abilities, so this offense has had its best year in a long time.
“Another substantial addition for them in the assistant coaching arena was Bill Callahan along the offensive line. He’s another guy like Mike Munchak, under whom the offensive line improves wherever he goes – with or without a change of personnel. … When you put these two together; Stefanski, with his ploy and play calls and Callahan teaching up front, that’s all you want to transform a franchise.
Question : Wow. Banner hasn’t been afraid to criticize the Browns in the past.
A: The Browns had a good offense last season with a chance to be excellent in 2021. I’m sure they have a Super Bowl-caliber offense not just because of Mayfield, but because of what Banner mentioned with the coach and the offensive line.
Question : What about defense?
A: That’s why I’m not ready to go as far as PFF’s Monson who ended his story with, “The second offseason could propel them to being legitimate contenders and the biggest threat to Kansas City in the AFC. “
Question : Which means?
A: The author argues that any of the Browns’ defense improvements will be enough to help them take out KC. A few points starting with this question, are the Chiefs good enough to play three Super Bowls in a row? History is against them, although New England and Tom Brady recently (2016-18) did. Injuries, salary cap issues and schedules make this difficult.
Question : So you’re not convinced the Chiefs is better for the Browns?
A: I am also not convinced by the defense of the Browns. Banner made a strong point on the impact of coaching on the offense, along with Stefanski and Callahan. I’ll add offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt to the list. These three really worked together to create a game-changing attack.
Question : But in defense?
A: Joe Woods is the coordinator. I consider him solid, but is he in Stefanski / Callahan / Van Pelt’s class? Difficult to know. He was not given much talent in 2020. It was difficult to judge him. In 2017, he had a top-five defense in several key categories with Denver. In 2018, there was a significant drop.
Question : Don’t you like what the Browns did in the offseason to help the defense?
A: Absolutely, although I’m skeptical of Jadeveon Clowney. It is a key addition and should not only be healthy, but also productive. Free agents John Johnson III and Troy Hill are expected to help the secondary. The same goes with the first round Greg Newsome II. I have doubts about Greedy Williams and concerns that Denzel Ward remains healthy.
Question : Why are you a downer?
A: Defense will be better, or Woods is a big deal. But they are likely to have nine new starters as only Myles Garrett and Ward are guaranteed places among the returning players. I guess returnees Ronnie Harrison Jr. (security) and maybe Jacob Phillips (linebacker) or Malcolm Smith (linebacker) can get a starting job. Lots of new faces.
Question : It’s not funny.
A: In fact, the season will be fun. The Browns can win 11 games again, especially in the new 17-game format. But I keep thinking this team is one year away from the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, they are good enough to dream about. It all depends on how quickly Woods and his coaching staff can assemble the defense.
RATHER RECENT TERRY COLUMNS
Hey Terry, what about the Browns
The long winding road leading a worried Kevin Mack to the Browns
Hey Terry, a comparison between the Browns now and 1981?
Hey Terry Tribe: No Lindor, and José?
Dennis Gates on his new CSU contract
Terry’s Talkin’ Cavs Kevin Love, problèmes de plafond salarial
Terry’s Talkin ‘Browns: The draft is over, so what’s it like?
What’s next for Koby Altman? Hey Terry on Cavs
Browns Playoff Shirts, Hats For Sale: Here’s where Cleveland Browns fans can order shirts and hats celebrating the 2020 NFL Playoff Qualifier.