Don’t look now, but it is December and the Cleveland Browns are legitimate playoff contenders. Currently, the Browns 8-5 are the 5th AFC Playoff seed and two games back from the division-leading Baltimore Ravens 10-3. Yes, this is not a dream. The Cleveland Browns are a contending NFL football team. And they will be for years to come. But first, the Haslam family needs to do what is right and give contract extensions to the Head Coach and General Manager.
I am old enough to remember the constant 2-to-3-year churning of Cleveland Browns head coaches and general managers. The lack of stability translated to on-the-field futility. Since the 2020 season, head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry have been on the job for the Cleveland Browns. Their record as of Week 15 in the 2023 season is 34-29. I easily remember the Browns record of 2015-2018 was 11-52-1. It took Browns owner Jimmy Haslam nine years to get it right. He hired an exceptional general manager and head coach in 2020. It is now time to extend them both.
This season has had its share of adversity. The injury list continues to grow every week and yet the team keeps winning and has an over 80% chance to make the NFL playoffs. Future hall of fame head coach Bill Belichick was the Browns head coach from 1991-1995. His record was 36-44. Belichick had an even worse situation in 1995 than coach Stefanski’s this season. In mid-season 1995 then Browns owner Art Modell announced the team was moving to Baltimore. When this happened the Cleveland Browns only won one more game that season. The announcement of the move ruined their season. Coach Belichick himself did whatever he could to right the ship. He researched and could not find anything like that ever happening in sports. Years later he went on to win six Super Bowls with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. He always cited the learning experience he got from the adversity of the 1995 Cleveland Browns season. Fast forward to today and you can see an unfair situation handed to a young first-time head coach in his fourth season. Through all the injuries this season, coach Stefanski has grown into the role of head coach. He has shown leadership and did not make excuses. GM Andrew Berry deserves credit as well.
In 2020 Andrew Berry was hired to replace John Dorsey. The best moves he made were the moves he didn’t make. Berry was smart enough to see the existing talent on the roster and keep it. He put aside his ego and evaluated the players on the team. As I have seen many times before, new general managers usually clean the house of an NFL roster and bring in their own players. Berry didn’t do that, he extended players that he didn’t draft. For example, Nick Chubb, David Njoku, Denzel Ward and recently Grant Delpit. Berry has also done well with drafts and trades. Not every move he made worked to the benefit of the team. Any NFL team has draft picks, trades, and free agents that turn out to be bad. Berry does have a few. And the team is still contending because the good moves have outweighed the bad ones. The Deshaun Watson trade is probably the most criticized for Berry. I feel that the outcome of that is yet to be determined. The Cleveland Browns organization is showing stability and continuity.
Despite the laundry list of injuries to key players, the Cleveland Browns are 8-5 and in control of their playoff destiny. The team is persevering and showing resilience. This is due to organizational leadership and the overall roster. The Cleveland Browns are a very good team and growing into a very good organization. The time now is to solidify the recent gains made by this team. They must extend the contracts of their GM and head coach. It is the right move and the right time for the organization.