By Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor
As I was watching a First Take segment discussing the Cleveland Browns, I realized that ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith is right for once — the Browns are way too overhyped. Even with the addition of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants, and with a young core including running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and quarterback Baker Mayfield, it’s way too early to predict this team as a Super Bowl contender.
It’s been one season, and it’s still the Browns. Here is why the expectations for Cleveland need to be dialed back a bit going into this season.
Mayfield has not thrown a pass to Beckham as of the time of this article, not even in practice. Chemistry is arguably the most important factor in determining the success of a quarterback and wide receiver duo, and as of now, we have nothing to go off. On paper, it seems as if this is the ideal situation for Mayfield since he has two of the top receivers in the league, along with two running backs who have consistently performed at a high level. On paper is one thing, how they perform on the field is completely different. There is a possibility that Beckham and Mayfield can’t mesh together, and the entire situation becomes a disaster. It seems as if no one is expecting a worst-case scenario, even though we have seen teams with high expectations completely underperform.
Last season, everyone saw the Jacksonville Jaguars as a contender. Coming off an appearance in the AFC Championship, they had a seven-game losing streak at one point and finished 5-11. In 2014, the San Francisco 49ers were coming off two straight appearances in the NFC Championship, but they went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Every year, a team who has high expectations always underperforms, and there is a high likelihood the 2019 Browns will become the next example.
We are still talking about the Browns, the team who before last season was considered the laughing stock of football and was by far the worst team for a decade. The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2002 and have had one winning season since 2007. The chances of this Browns team completely changing the course of the franchise this year seems highly improbable considering how bad they’ve been in recent years. If this was any other organization, I would have more confidence in the team. However, the Browns have given me little reason to believe in them since I’ve followed football.
Cleveland has the potential and talent to turn it around this season and make a playoff run. Besides the offensive talent, their young defense, led by defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward, looks promising. However, this team has not played a down together, so we have no idea how this will turn out. Until I see them play some games and win, I don’t think it’s fair to believe this team is a contender in 2019. Let’s take a step back for a second and see how they perform on the field before we make any insane predictions off of it.