A year ago, there were plenty of people who thought the Browns were on the cusp of something big.
But when the season began, the hype quickly faded, with a 43-13 thrashing to start a 6-10 season bringing it down around their ears.
That’s why owner Jimmy Haslam is trying to lower the temperature for his latest reboot, which included another new coach (Kevin Stefanski) and General Manager (Andrew Berry).
“I think we probably all of us, including ownership, learned a lesson last year about tempering expectations,’’ Haslam said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I don’t think we managed that as well as we should have. I think you have to be realistic. This team has not been to the playoffs since 2002, and we’re in a tough division. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are arguably two of the best teams and best franchises. I think you have to be realistic there.
“We’re still a young team. On the other hand, we feel really good about Andrew and Kevin, our coaching staff, our personnel group and the talent that we’ve been able to assemble. We’re excited going into the year but realistic.”
That’s probably a safer place to begin, as expecting anything in the middle of a pandemic (much less athletic achievement) is a risky bet.
But after so many changes, Haslam believes they’re on a unified path now, along with chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta.
“It’s a lot more fun,’’ Haslam said. “You have Paul DePodesta goes in that group, too — three really smart, really capable individuals, low ego and who just want to win and want to do it in the right way. It was amazing for us to watch the whole draft process — like I said, time will tell in three, four or five years how well we did – and how well everybody worked together. We’re excited about it. We have not played any games yet, but we are excited about the group we put together. Hopefully, they will be here for a long time.”
That’s never been anything you can assume in Cleveland either, any more than being good at football. But it doesn’t sound like there will be any more pressure from the top than expectations from outside, which can only help.