Cleveland Browns Clinch Playoff Berth for the First Time Since 2002by Mason Thompson January 3, 2021 0 comments
Yes, you read that title right. For the first time since 2002, the Cleveland Browns have clinched a playoff berth. One of the NFL’s most prestigious franchises in the history of the league for the first few decades has gone through utter disappointment ever since. From “The Fumble” to “The Drive”, then the move to Baltimore, to coming back as a team, the Browns have gone through a lot.
Tim Couch. Ty Detmer. Doug Pederson. Spergon Wynn. Kelly Holcomb. Jeff Garcia. Luke McCown. Trent Dilfer. Charlie Frye. Derek Anderson. Ken Dorsey. Brady Quinn. Bruce Gradkowski. Colt McCoy. Jake Delhomme. Seneca Wallace. Brandon Weeden. Thaddeus Lewis. Jason Campbell. Brian Hoyer. Johnny Manziel. Connor Shaw. Josh McCown. Austin Davis. Robert Griffin. Cody Kessler. DeShone Kizer. Kevin Hogan. Tyrod Taylor. You’ve all seen the jersey with all those names on it.
1-31 in two years. Hue Jackson. Constant disappointment as the Browns couldn’t win a game and hadn’t had a winning season since 2007 with Anderson and Braylon Edwards. That season, Edwards had almost 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns. That was the last time the Browns had hope, the last time they had a winning season. That’s 13 years.
That quarterback jersey that was originally Couch’s with almost 30 different names doesn’t matter. There’s only one quarterback that matters in the city of Cleveland now, and that’s Mayfield. Mayfield was selected with the first overall selection in the 2018 draft. That was met by lofty expectations from those in Cleveland and around the league. Mayfield has since met those expectations and went well beyond them. Sure, he struggled last season when the Browns had Freddie Kitchens drawing up draw plays on 4th and long. Now, with a competent coach and one of the best offensive lines in the league, Mayfield has had the best season of his young career. He’s passed for over 3,000 yards, almost 30 touchdowns, and under ten interceptions. The most important part? He has the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs.
While Andrew Berry has taken over as the general manager, some credit has to go to Dorsey. In his two short years in Cleveland, Dorsey made moves for the stars on the team today. He selected Mayfield with his first choice as the GM. He signed Jarvis Landry in his first offseason. That same draft as Mayfield? Well, he only drafted the team’s star cornerback and running back. The next offseason, he traded for Odell Beckham and Wyatt Teller. While Beckham seems to be on his way out of Cleveland, Teller has proven to be one of the best interior linemen in the league. He also signed Kareem Hunt. In the next draft class, the former GM selected Greedy Williams, Sione Takitaki, and Mack Wilson. Dorsey’s ultimate downfall came with the hiring of Kitchens. If he had gone with the second choice, he could still very well be the man in charge of Cleveland.
Andrew Barry and Kevin Stefanski
Berry is now in that role. In his first season, he has transformed the Browns into, dare I say an AFC contender. He has signed pieces that have contributed to the playoff run, like Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper. B.J. Goodson, Karl Joseph, and Andrew Sendejo have also played a role in this season’s success as part of his free agency class.
One of the most under the radar moves Barry did was re-sign restricted free agent, Rashard Higgins. Since Beckham went down with an injury earlier in the season, Higgins has transformed into the team’s second receiver. He had over 500 yards on the season and four touchdowns on the season as of Week 16.
His draft class was phenomenal when he selected Jedrick Wills, Jacob Phillips, Harrison Bryant, Nick Harris, and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Cleveland’s second-round pick, Grant Delpit, suffered a season-ending injury before the season started and will be looking for revenge next year. Berry also picked up an extra third-round selection for this upcoming draft as part of a trade down with New Orleans. Ronnie Harrison was an excellent trade acquisition before the season from Jacksonville as well. The best thing Berry has done has been the hiring of Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski, who finished second in the running when Kitchens was the head coach, has made the most of his time thus far. He has a team that is energetic and willing to play for one another.
The Playoffs and the Future
Now, Berry, Stefanski, Mayfield, Myles Garrett, and all the other members of the Cleveland Browns have clinched a playoff spot. While they may not win a Super Bowl this season, Cleveland’s future is beyond bright, and they have just started their Super Bowl window, which may not close for a while. Browns fans are in for a treat over the next few years, and the AFC North could be having a changing of the guard.