Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, they’ve been anything but successful. After their win yesterday, they have put up a total record of 90-218-1 dating back to their reestablishment in 1999. That is a 29% win percentage in 19 seasons and five games. In that same period, the Browns have had 30 different starting quarterbacks, nine different head coaches, nine different general managers and three different owners. The Cleveland Browns have been a complete dumpster fire, until now. John Dorsey, the current general manager, has been stellar so far in his tenure in Cleveland. He’s turning around the culture of the organization and people are starting to take notice.
The 2018 Cleveland Browns catapulted into the national spotlight this offseason when they were featured on HBO’s hit show “Hard Knocks.” The show followed the Browns through training camp to give America a behind-the-scenes look at how the organization operates. Viewers were able to get an inside look at some of the issues surrounding the Browns this offseason like the quarterback battle between Baker Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor, Josh Gordon returning to training camp for the first time since 2014, Jarvis Landry emerging as a strong leader of the team and Antonio Callaway’s run-in with the police. Along the way, viewers grew a strong attachment to players like Devon Cajuste, Nate Orchard and Carl Nassib, as they all fought for a spot on the team. This year’s season of “Hard Knocks” was one of the top viewed seasons for HBO, as America began to fall in love with the Cleveland Browns.
America’s love continued to grow for the Cleveland Browns through the first three weeks of the season. During the Browns’ Week 3 matchup against the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football, NFL Network averaged 5.2% of households and 8.6 million viewers, which made it the highest-rated and most-watched Thursday Night game since 2015. Not only that, but the game also peaked at 10.3 million viewers in the last six minutes of the game. When Baker Mayfield stepped onto the field, that night a spark was lit in Cleveland. Mayfield was captivating in the way he fired bullets to his receivers, showed poise in the pocket and led his team to a come-from-behind victory in his first NFL game. Fans took note and Baker Mania was officially underway.
The love for the Browns can be found in the strangest of places. Yesterday, I was in Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans waiting for my flight and trying to watch the Browns game on my phone. I looked up to see a giant crowd of people huddled around one of the TVs at a bar that was showing the Browns game. I joined the crowd to watch the final four minutes of overtime and it was an experience unlike I’ve ever had before. Many people continued to huddle around the TV all cheering for the Browns. The crowd included Cleveland and non-Cleveland fans alike all rooting for the Browns to pull off the upset over the Ravens. When Greg Joseph’s game-winning field goal fluttered through the uprights, the entire airport was filled with screams of joy from everyone in the bar. That moment showed me that America is taking note of the Browns and they’re quickly becoming the new “America’s Team.”
The Cleveland Browns are a legitimate force this year and America is taking notice. They have the opportunity to continue this hot streak and continue to captivate the country. With the Dallas Cowboys starting off the year looking shaky, the Browns are starting to fill the role of America’s team. Every Browns game this year has been close and exciting, which are the best games to watch for the average fan. I believe if the Browns continue to compete with the best in the league (like they did with the Steelers, Saints and Ravens) then they will quickly begin to take over the Cowboys’ role of America’s Team.