This is not a cliche. There is literally too much going on with the Cleveland Browns right now. (As an English major in college, I know the exact proper use of “literally”. This is appropriate.) This past NFL Annual Meeting in Arizona was abuzz with the most trendy team in the league at the moment, the Browns. Reporters wanted to know everything from how the mega-trade for Odell Beckham Jr. was pulled off, to a future uniform change, and everything in between.
The only thing not discussed, for the first time in forever, was who the Browns will pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.
The major theme of every interview was metered expectations. When asked about his potentially explosive offense, first time head coach Freddie Kitchens did quip that he would like to “blow a bunch of stuff up.” Other than that, there were really no effusive quotes said about “wrecking this league.” Kitchens aw-shucked his way through the interview questions with his southern charm. He iterated that expectations should be high, but not ridiculous. He also assured everyone that he has been on teams with high expectations before, so setting the tone for this Browns team will be nothing new for him. He stated that he has grown more comfortable with the role of head coach, yet he is still unfazed by the position, even keeping up his routine by going to confession and focusing on his wife and family.
The Haslams were a bit more peppy. They generally had a glow about them, not just for making the biggest news in the NFL with the trade, but more so because the franchise is overall healthier. Gone is the dread of answering questions about firing head coaches, inept front-office management, and off-the-field woes. Here are questions about everything from making moves, to being aware that this is still a young team, to committing to the spaces around FirstEnergy Stadium, to the second most popular topic among Browns fans, changing the uniforms. Co-owner Jimmy Haslam is cautiously optimistic about the future, stressing the youth on this team. Co-owner Dee Haslam admitted she and the team want to “temper [expectations]”, committing only to “getting better” as an organization every day.
Reflexive of this, general manager John Dorsey admitted he is always looking to improve the team. Like a gunslinger from the Wild West, Dorsey pulled out his phone exclaiming that, if the right deal is there to trade back into the first round or acquire talent, he will “look at everything”, meaning he is still open to making deals. However, any deal has to be prudent, he reiterated. The Browns have gone from having the most money left in cap space to the bottom third of the league. Any moves now, Dorsey said, would have to consider the financial health of the 2020-21 season.
Looking toward the future was on the Haslam’s minds as well. They stated they are committed to working with the City of Cleveland in a partnership to help revitalize the lakefront area surrounding FirstEnergy Stadium. Dee Haslam brought up improving the fan experience at the stadium, including building an overpass (a “connector” as she put it) above Route 2 from Lakeland Street to Alfred Lerner Way to alleviate street level foot traffic.
Whatever each person involved with the direction of the Browns says about moving this franchise forward, the common message is loud and clear: fans should have high but measured expectations. With all the new and exciting improvements to the team, prudence is a good piece of advice for every Browns fan.