February 27, 2024

Eight Reasons for Hope – The 2023 Cleveland Browns

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On September 10th, the Cleveland Browns will open their season at the newly renamed Cleveland Browns Stadium taking on their division rival Cincinnati Bengals. Since 1999 many seasons started for Browns fans with a degree of hope, anticipation and excitement. Many times, that hope was proven to be false, the anticipation turned into disappointment and the excitement became anger. We have all been here before in the last twenty-four years. Yet, there are eight reasons this season feels different.

The first reason is a large financial investment in the most important position. Quarterback Deshaun Watson played at an elite level before his legal troubles sidelined him for nearly two seasons. He showed a lot of rust in his six starts of 2022. But he is in his athletic prime and reports from off-season and training camp practices say he looks close to his level of play in 2020.

​The second reason is the defensive line additions of DE Za’Darius Smith and DT Dalvin Tomlinson to play alongside arguably the league’s best pass rusher DE Myles Garrett. The Browns could potentially have three pass rushers with double-digit sacks in 2023.

Third is an already impressive offensive line with an elite running back Nick Chubb. This could set up a career season for the franchise’s best running back since Jim Brown.

​ Fourth are the additions of WR Elijah Moore and S Juan Thornhill. These players add more speed and athleticism to the wide receiver position and the defensive secondary.

​The fifth reason is the changes to the coaching staff. The dismissal of defensive coordinator Joe Woods and special teams coordinator Mike Pfeifer were expected with the disappointment of 2022. They were replaced by Jim Schwartz DC and Ray Ventrone STC. Both are already accomplished coordinators in the NFL and are well respected. It is more than reasonable to see them as coaching upgrades.

The sixth reason for hope is that the Browns had a solid draft. While lacking first and second-round picks. GM Andrew Berry drafted solid young talent. WR Cedric Tillman, DT Siaki Ika, the massive OT Dawand Jones, C Luke Wypler and QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson are considered solid draft picks by draft pundits. Of course, full judgment on any draft class is reserved for the future. But these young players can help and contribute this season.

The seventh reason is organizational stability. Finally, the Cleveland Browns have kept a head coach and front office for more than two seasons. Head coach Kevin Stefanski has a winning regular season record at 26-24. He is the first Cleveland Browns head coach to make it to their fourth season since Romeo Crennel. The Andrew Berry front office has been in place since 2020. We have an opportunity to see a general manager’s plan come into fruition. That hasn’t happened since Ernie Arcorsi in the late 1980s.

​The eighth and last reason for hope is that they we are already a good team with underperforming records in 2021 8-9 and 2022 7-10. With the likely potential of very good to elite quarterback play. The roster and coaching staff have been tangibly upgraded this offseason on top of an already talented team.

Many experts and national pundits are skeptical of the 2023 Cleveland Browns. They share the same sentiment that many Browns fans do. We have all seen the Pre-Season hype in prior years. Stats and Pro Football Focus grades can be used to make predictions and arguments. But the only stat that matters are wins and losses.

The Cleveland Browns have not won a division title since 1989. They have only won two playoff games in the last 30 years and have had three winning seasons since the franchise rebirth in 1999. It is reasonable to be skeptical in 2023. And it is even more reasonable to be hopeful.

​The red flag of high expectations is waving in every Browns fan’s face this Pre-Season. Will 2023 be different? Will a harsh reality hit Browns fans like a cold January wind off Lake Erie in 2023? The only true tell will be the final score on Sundays this fall. Having reasonable high expectations is healthy. Having high standards comes with consistent winning. This 2023 season will be a five-month-long journey, enjoy it. We as Browns fans deserve to!

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