The Browns are less than 17 months removed from an 0-16 finish. But times have changed dramatically in Cleveland, starting with the arrival of quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Last season’s spike to 7-8-1, fueled by the early-season firing of coach Hue Jackson and the emergence of Mayfield, has energized a long-suffering fan base. Throw in the offseason arrival of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Kareem Hunt and the Friday visit from free-agent defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and Browns fans have something that they haven’t had in a long, long time: Genuine hope.
On one hand, the team needs to embrace it, because it sells tickets and hats and jerseys, and it gets people to spend their time consuming media offerings from companies owned and/or operated by the team. On the other hand, it raises the bar for a franchise that had grown accustomed to seeing the bar buried in the mud along the banks of the Cuyahoga River.
As a result, coach Freddie Kitchens and G.M. John Dorsey have been trying to get people to dial in their expectations. On Thursday, Dorsey tried it again while addressing the crowd at an event commemorating the league’s decision to grant the 2021 draft to Cleveland.
“Don’t believe the hype,” Dorsey said, via Zac Jackson of TheAthletic.com.
It’s way too late for that. The hype has arrived, fueled by last year’s finish and this year’s all-in move to make the team even better. Sure, it would be useful for the organization to have a little cover in the event that they stumble out of the gates (the opener against the Titans already has “upset” written all over it), but recent developments coupled with long-standing struggles have resulted in the fan base getting through the offseason with visions of a Super Bowl run dancing in their heads.
Nothing Dorsey or anyone else says will change that.