Some people are fans of the Cleveland Browns. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Cleveland Browns. This 2019 Deadspin NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Cleveland Browns.
Your 2018 record: 7-8-1. And now, ladies and gentlemen, a set-up … The Browns gave up on both Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon, trading them away. They fired the head coach before they even reached midseason, and dismissed their redass of an offensive coordinator too. To be interim head coach, they promoted a guy who is a disgraced bounty hunter, a hilarious liar, and who blames players for their own injuries. They had to cut their starting LB after he got caught doing insider trading. They lost to the Raiders, who are like the Browns now but louder. The world learned that they once called Cameron Jordan to tell him they were drafting him when they meant to call Jordan Cameron instead (the former had already been drafted three rounds prior).
The set-up continues … The Browns were poised to beat a juggernaut Saints team, starring that same Cameron Jordan, only to be undone by their idiot kicker. They could only salvage a tie with the hated Steelers in part because they got boned by the roughing the passer rule and its illegalization of gravity. They got blown off by a hard-up Dez Bryant looking for work. They lost four in a row at one point, including dropping one to the Bucs. Their O-line coach turned out to be a fucking package store clerk. They leaked to Adam Schefter that they would try to interview Condoleezza Rice for head coach (they then denied the report; Rice said she had no interest). Everyone got Tyrod Taylor’s name wrong. Isaiah Crowell, then a Jet, wiped his ass with the ball and then threw it at their fans.
That was the set-up. Now for the punchline: This was best season the Browns have had in a dozen years. The standard for them is lower than the standard for Trump giving a speech after a hospital has exploded.
Your coach: Former running backs coach Freddie Kitchens, who has all of Jim Tomsula’s unpreparedness and none of the whimsy. Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator after Camaro polisher Todd Haley was fired, and then was promoted to the top job after Gregg Williams was also shown the door. Kitchens didn’t even consider asking for the job when it was up for grabs. But they gave it to him anyway, likely because some enchanted busboy came to Jimmy Haslam in a dream and said it would be a swell idea. Kitchens has never been a head coach at any level, and Christ does it ever show:
“I heard the other day somebody say something about I wasn’t ready to be a head coach. I mean, who the hell’s ready to be a head coach? You have a resume that you check off the list and everything?”
Yeah, that’s pretty much the idea! You do indeed compile a résumé and check off vital experience on it. Not a hard thing to presuppose, you clod. But none of this was of much concern to the Browns, nor to Kitchens it looks like. I know that kind of cheap bluntness is the kind of shit that gives your average Dawg Pound resident a visible red rocket, but it WOULD be better if your new head coach said, “Yeah, I’ve been fucking ready my whole life to do this,” you know? Sometimes the cliché is the better move.
This is offense Rex Ryan in the making. I don’t even need to watch these Browns play a game to know it. Kitchens gives good copy and makes for a cute underdog story in a city that routinely jacks off to its own underdog status, but for once the Browns could use a goddamn professional in charge of things. Never ever promote from within after you’ve just fired the shit out of all the other coaches. That never works. Let’s watch as Freddie learns his job on the fly…
“You know, the days of inside information, and the days of, of, uhh, unnamed sources and stuff like that have ended. So, you’re not gonna get any information like that, ever. Anybody. And if I ever see it, they’re fired, immediately.”
I mean honestly, why bother letting Gregg Williams walk if the new guy is just gonna spew the same tough-guy bullshit? The charm of Freddie Kitchens is going to wear off once this team loses two games in a row.
Your quarterback: It’s Baker Mayfield. Fun fact: Kitchens’s little flash of Belichickism above was inspired by former line coach Bob Wylie telling the press that Kitchens only got the job because Mayfield liked him. It’s worth giving Mayfield a bit of control over things, given that he had a revelatory first season and given that he is almost certainly the best QB the Nü-Browns have ever had. You wanna give him NBA-level influence, I understand.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Kitchens knows what the fuck he’s doing. He said himself that he doesn’t. That’s why Baker will have his neck snapped before Halloween and you’ll have to watch Drew Stanton play QB for most of the season. No good young quarterback ever survives here. I watched Stanton play last week. First pass I watched him throw went right into a linebacker’s chest.
What’s new that sucks: This roster is loaded now, so much so that other NFL people are predicting good things for the Browns without ANY traces of necessary fatalism whatsoever. That happens when you trade for Odell Beckham, sign away Sheldon Richardson from Minnesota, and pick up, uh, Kareem Hunt after the Chiefs cut ties with him when he was caught on video shoving a woman to the ground and kicking her. Browns GM John Dorsey, the kind of guy who looks like he eats gum, drafted Hunt in Kansas City and defended the signing like so:
“There were two important factors: one is that Kareem took full responsibility for his egregious actions and showed true remorse and secondly, just as importantly, he is undergoing and is committed to necessary professional treatment and a plan that has been clearly laid out.”
That’s a very roundabout way of saying, “He’s really good and we just hope he doesn’t assault a woman in public again,” and Browns fans will happily take it. They’ll take whatever slop you feed them, they’re so hyped up for the 2019 season. Never mind that Hunt is suspended for the first eight games and already had the police called on him for getting into a bar argument. Never mind that Odell is an otherworldly talent but also a moody prick, perhaps not as destructive to a locker room as Mikey Francesa would have you believe, but still noticeably poor in temperament, especially if there’s a kicking net around. Never mind that the pass protection is spotty, particularly given that starting guard Kevin Zeitler was included in the trade package for Odell. None of that is gonna matter. None of that is gonna stop these people from exhibiting as much preseason bravado as humanly possible. They’ve been waiting FOREVER, biding their time drinking feces-laden disinfectant water out of port-a-potties, to be this arrogant and shitty. Nothing is gonna stop them from getting high on false hope. When you live in Cleveland, false hope is about the best you’re gonna get. Every few years they stop chewing Salisbury steak for five seconds to be like, “Hey the Browns are gonna be good!” and then they’re not. I’ve been through all this before. Many times.
If Duke Johnson plays 10 games for Houston, the Browns will owe them a third-rounder. It’s like every draft pick they now hold is shit they found in Sashi Brown’s office drawer that they wanna send back.
What has always sucked: These fans, man. Boston will forever serve as history’s foremost example of fanbase using a long-awaited title to instantly become galactically insufferable. But this phenomenon happens with other fanbases as well, and you can often sense when it’s coming. Warriors fans turned into assholes. Cubs fans turned into (bigger) assholes. Eagles fans … well, I mean they ARE Eagles fans.
There will be no holding back Browns fans this season. The presumptuousness is already at a fever pitch and just AGONIZINGLY misplaced. You’d think they already had a title in the bag. MY ASS. This was the third-worst defense in football a year ago. You think new DC Steve Wilks is fixing that? Steve Wilks just got chased out of Arizona faster than a gun violence protester. He’s not fixing SHIT.
These are the Browns. Actual regular-season games will soon remind you of that fact, but let me say it now while Bob from Parma’s nipples are still rock hard. These are the same Browns that brought in Kobe Bryant as a motivational speaker (Kobe told them to be more selfish). These are the same Browns who have beaten the Steelers just twice this decade and not once in the past five years. These are the same Browns owned by a man who killed an ad deal with ESPN because he was pissy about a Seth Wickersham article. Speaking of Seth, his article noted that these are, yes, still the same Browns who accidentally displayed double penetration images on an office wall. These are the same Browns whose best season since returning to the league was one that ended with them blowing a big lead to Tommy Maddox.
These are the same Browns who never get a play call right, who never develop any quarterback properly, who never keep a head coach around for longer than the average grade school recess period lasts, and who lose every replay challenge, fumble, and game itself. All the fucking time. These are the same Browns you’ve always known and the only Browns you ever WILL know. Before Art Modell, the old ceiling for the Browns was losing a playoff game in a collapse so painful that it got its own name and Hall of Fame plaque. Now, the ceiling is 7-8-1, with misattributed quotes etched into the drywall. Soak 2018 in, because that is the height of overachievement for all of you, both in football and in life itself. The Browns are gonna melt down and all these good feelings are going to go to shit so quickly and so effortlessly. When they do, you guys will settle right back into your cushy role as tomato cans, like nothing ever happened. I can guarantee it.
I live in D.C., man. I know what happens to offseason champions come the regular season. The Browns are the Browns, and that is the only fact I’ll ever need to derail this stupid hype train. This franchise was only allowed back into the league on the condition that it always be a punching bag.
What might not suck: I love watching Baker play. I really do. I love watching him play almost as much as I love watching him be a dick to Colin Cowherd. Too bad he’s going to underthrow Odell one time in September and then they’ll hate each other forever.
HEAR IT FROM BROWNS FANS!
My entire life the Browns have been complete and utter dogshit.
With each passing game that Baker doesn’t get hurt my butthole will get tighter and tighter.
This whole offseason to me is akin to a movie scene where everyone at some happy gathering is about to be mowed down with a machine gun and only the audience knows it’s coming.
People in Cleveland piss themselves if a Browns/Cavs/Indians player doesn’t get our three-building skyline tattooed on their forehead when they arrive in town.
We had our third non-losing season in 20 years, added a couple offensive pieces, and now our idiot fans thinks the Browns are going to the fucking Super Bowl.
There is no god in any religion remorseful enough to let the currently assembled Browns roster make it through the season without a massive staph outbreak taking Baker’s arm and Beckham’s leg.
It was more fun being a Browns fan when I could text my Bengals/Steelers fan friends “Browns Super Bowl (insert current year)” and everyone knew it was a joke. Now when I send that text I look like a dweeb.
The expectations for this team by these same beleaguered fans is just completely, outrageously out of line. Do these people have no memory at all? Do they not know what happens to this team?
This is finally our year, so says everyone in Cleveland. They are fools. This is merely Lucy talking us into another try at kicking the ball.
If there’s one thing I know about being a Cleveland Browns fan is that even with all the talent in the world we’ll still find a way to do Browns things.
I’m an Englishman who moved to Mexico in 2010 to become an English teacher. Knowing nothing about NFL I asked a coworker called Erik who had really helped me who he recommended and without a second’s doubt he recommended the Browns.
Since then it’s been eight years of mockery from Americans I work with and Mexican teenagers who would cheer me each Monday morning after a Browns loss. I once got told ‘Browns suck’ while wearing a team shirt on a beach in Costa Rica.
This season is going to be the equivalent of snorting gun powder.
I once paid over $200 for a Brandon Weeden signed helmet.
One below average season and our fans become the snottiest fans in the league. Can’t wait for Baker and Odell to get into a fight at Barley House in mid-November after a 3-7 start.
This is the first time their coach isn’t someone else’s retread, or some chud off of the gnarled Parcells/Belichick coaching tree, or an actual dude named Chud!
Currently, expectations for the Browns are the highest they’ve been since they departed for Baltimore, and the first time in my life where there were expectations of any kind that I can remember. So that just means that the sadness I feel at the end of the season will be that much more amplified, so that will be fun.
The guy who went Ray Finkle on a teenage girl in a hotel got a second chance by John Dorsey. Fuck Art Modell’s rotting, urine-soaked grave.
Every single key player has some sort of issue or fatal flaw. There probably isn’t a bigger collection of shitbags this side of a Trump cabinet meeting.
Baker Mayfield will fall prey to whatever haunts this city and transform into Derek Anderson, Odell’s kneecaps will simultaneously explode in the middle of his first touchdown dance, and Freddie Kitchens will be launched into Lake Erie via catapult.
Odell’s leg will never be the same after we kneecapped him two years ago when the Giants were facing us in a meaningless preseason game.
The last time the Browns won a playoff game, the number one song in the country was “On Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men and the number one movie was Dumb And Dumber.
White people in Northeast Ohio, residing exclusively in white flight suburbs (NOT CLEVELAND), have become so radicalized by Trump that my parents no longer have friends who are not full-on Nazis. These are people who protested the Vietnam War who now get mad at the mere existence of black people even though they do not know any. The Browns are the only topic available for me to have a conversation with these mutants/family friends because they’re mad the Indians ditched the vile Chief Wahoo and LeBron James had the goddamn temerity to leave “us” for a real city (again, they don’t live in Cleveland). The Browns are the only thing tying me to the most despicable human swine in America. I cannot wait for the season to start!
What should have been an offseason filled with cautious optimism as the Browns behaved as a normal football team has turned into an East German Stasi-esque vetting of who is and isn’t a #RealFan, as judged by your ability to seriously act like Baker Mayfield isn’t at all immature, and ignore the very real possibility that winning the offseason doesn’t always translate into success on the field.
It’s to the point that even rational takes such as “Maybe Baker shouldn’t have talked about Duke Johnson’s contract situation” just means you are a “hater” and clearly anti Browns football. The overarching need of these people to feel dissed and put upon is pathetic, and it disgusts me to my absolute core that I am technically among their number, and that they are from the same place as me.
Optimism? Hell no.
Remember that scene in “Jaws” when Quint is talking about how he was on the Indianapolis? How he was in the water for five days and he didn’t get really scared until he thought he was going to be rescued? That’s what it feels like to be a Browns fan to me right now. It really does appear that salvation is in sight. But there’s still a zillion ways it can go spectacularly wrong — and I refuse to give voice to any of them because I feel like doing so will make it happen.
My family has had season tickets for decades. After moving from Cleveland to Columbus last year, my dad continues makes the two hour drive every Sunday home game to spend four hours in the freezing cold watching them lose. I decided to join for the game versus the Chargers last year and he spent the entire drive talking about how “this year is different”, “the whole attitude in the arena has changed”, “it feels like a different team”, etc. etc. (Note, at this point in the season the Browns’ record was 2-2-1). They proceeded to get destroyed 38-14 and we spent the two hour drive back in silence.
My fiancee and I went to the home opener last year against the Steelers. It poured the entire game, but it was surprisingly competitive and we were on our feet with the rest of the crowd when we went into overtime. The stage was set for Zack Gonzalez to kick the winning FG. Blocked. Game over. Tie. Hundreds of us waited in the driving rain in absolute silence for an hour for the train to come pick us up, like we were being shipped off to the trenches at Verdun. That day I truly felt what it meant to be Sisyphus on the hill.
They signed a guy who tried to give a woman cauda equina syndrome with his foot.
Freddie Kitchens is the fucking Chauncey Gardiner of the NFL. Kitchens was a career running backs and tight ends coach for two decades, and after two months of being an OC is now apparently the best choice for head coach.
The average fan will consider anything less than an AFC championship a disappointment; this team hasn’t been mediocre since 2007.
Winter Browns games are only tolerable while blackout drunk.
My friend, let’s call him “Bucket”, purchased some nachos. While drunkenly celebrating a Browns touchdown in the 3rd quarter, Bucket got nacho cheese ALL OVER the fan in front of us’ jacket. Not wanting to admit his fault, Bucket waited until the next play worthy of celebration and jumped onto the fan’s back, hands full of napkins to clean up the cheese. This fan never noticed.
Last season was only fun for Browns fans because we’ve spent so much time being ground down into dust that we barely need competence to enjoy watching football now.
Today, people around these parts and others are using “Browns” and “Super Bowl contenders” in the same sentence unironically and let me be among the first to tell you that this is all a sham. A trick. This is Loki’s doing. Fate’s cold, skeletal hand will intervene.
ODB will fail get trapped in the bathroom of a five-star hotel suite and starvedto death. Baker Mayfield will get suspended for twenty-six games because Johnny Football invited him to a rager in Montreal and he overdosed on poutine laced with Krokodil. Jarvis Landry will lose one of his legs to gangrene in a Nerf suction dart accident. It doesn’t matter how good John Dorsey is at his job, he can’t travel back in time to dissuade the vengeful trucker/wizard who cursed Jimmy Haslam. This excitement is only a higher high to make us suffer through a lower low than 0-16. You can’t just run away from a history like ours.
Fuck Art Modell. It took our current cunt of a president for me to ever believe there was someone whose grave I would enjoy pissing on more than Modell’s.
Submissions for the NFL previews are closed. Next up: Minnesota Vikings.