Man, let’s get this thing started already. The wait has been excruciating. This evening the Browns open their preseason schedule with a home match-up against the Redskins. Real tackle football. Finally!
This is the season we have been longing for. The season of unbridled hopes and unconstrained expectations. The Cleveland Browns have been the laughingstock of the NFL for, well, decades really. But now our expectations are sky-high, and legitimately so. The current roster boasts stars, or potential stars, at every position group. We Browns fans are clamoring to see how this is going to play out in actual games. The anticipation is so real we can taste it.
First things first — the quarterback! Yes, we’ve got the quarterback that we’ve been yearning for since Bernie Kosar (with his “diminishing skills”) was sent packing by Bill Belichick. After his record-setting performance as a rookie last season, Baker Mayfield is already being figured into a national discussion as a top-five QB in the league. Combine his incredible work ethic and competitiveness with a full stable of gifted playmakers to work with, and you’ve got the makings of an offensive explosion on the lakefront.
But Mayfield’s importance to the franchise transcends his estimable on-the-field abilities. He is the unquestioned team leader, the first real “face of the franchise” that they’ve had since Kosar, or maybe even going back to Jim Brown. And he has assumed that mantle with all the fire and enthusiasm that a hungry fan base could want. While his tenure in Cleveland has been short, Baker Mayfield has replaced LeBron James as the city’s most beloved sports figure, filling a huge vacuum that opened when No. 23 took his talents to Tinsel Town. Mayfield just gets it when it comes to currying favor with the citizenry. Just wear a Lindor jersey to a Tribe game, shotgun a beer on the Jumbotron, and whip the fans into a frenzy. You’re our kind of guy!
Space does not allow me to thoroughly evaluate all of the other positions on the team, and the upgrades that have been accomplished by GM John Dorsey in the offseason. What about Odell Beckham Jr.? Wow, I could write another whole column on what he brings to the team, both in terms of talent and swagger. And that defensive line should be fearsome. Nick Chubb is primed for a break-out year. And what about when Kareem Hunt joins the team in Week 9? It’s easy to forget that he was probably the best player in the NFL until he got into his little mix-up.
Well, I could go on and on. And I intend to as preseason moves forward. Opening day against the Titans is just one month away and I plan to be at First Energy Stadium on Sept. 8 as the march to glory kicks into gear. These are unchartered waters that we Browns fans are plunging into, and I intend to enjoy every minute of it. You all with me?
As for the game against the Redskins, there are a couple of points that may temper your enthusiasm just a wee bit. First, Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens has made some comments that suggest that the starters are not going to play much, if at all. That would be a shame. It’s a sold-out crowd — give them Baker and OBJ for at least one series. Also, the NFL Network is not showing the game, and unless you get to a Cleveland broadcast area where you can pick up WKYC, you’re not going to see it live. But here’s the bright side: NFL Network is showing the game on replay on Friday afternoon at 4. I can’t think of a better reason to cut out of work a little early and start your weekend with the Browns.
Here we go Brownies, here we go . . . Woof! Woof! This is the refrain you’ll be hearing throughout Crawford County. Steeler fans, better start getting used to it.