1A) Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson needs to be great (total shocker). He was a pro-bowler in the 2018, 2019, and 2020 NFL seasons. Then there was some off field drama that led to Watson not taking a snap in the National Football League for a casual 700 days.
He was officially suspended for 11-games in during the 2022 season (after sitting out the entirety of the 2021 season). He played the final 6 games of the 2022 season with the mindset of shaking off the rust and getting ready for the following season. There was a lot of rust.
The Browns have bet the farm on Watson in terms of draft capital and guaranteed money. Some have labeled this blockbuster trade as the worst move in franchise history, others consider it the greatest. At the end of the day, both parties are wrong because it’s too early to tell.
The wait will not be much longer. Watson needs to show the city of Cleveland that he is worth it, and he will need to do so quickly. The entire NFL world is chomping at the bits for Deshaun (and Cleveland) to fail. The media and twitter will have a field day if he does not come out guns a blazing Week 1.
If Watson is above average to good, the narrative from the media will be annoying. If he comes out the first two games looking bad, he will be blasted by everyone. If ‘temporary bad’ snowballs into ‘longterm bad’, the franchise is pretty much screwed. It will take at least 7 years to recover from when the trade was made.
If you’re a Browns fan that is already declaring him elite: Shut up. Be supportive but for the love of God stop jinxing the man. He’s got a lot on his plate and the football Gods rarely throw us a bone. He would be the first QB in NFL history to be great after taking that much time off.
If you’re a Browns fan that is already declaring him a bust: Shut up. Be supportive. The future of the franchise is riding on him.
So yeah, he needs to do well.
1B) Jim Schwartz
The Browns have struggled on the defensive side of the ball since the franchise returned in ’99. They were solid in 2002, 2011, 2014, and the second half of the 2021 season. Other than those years its been primarily suck.
The 2022 Browns defense consisted of catastrophic blown coverages. They routinely made opposing running backs look like Hall of Famers. It was almost like Joe Woods and company were actively protesting the art of tackling.
Joe Woods is gone. Meet Jim Sch wartz.
Mr. Schwartz is both the DC and the 2nd most important individual in the organization.
Schwartz is widely credited for turning a very bad Philadelphia Eagles’ defense into a group of Super Bowl winning champions that will live in the halls of eternity. Lesser men would have folded when their starting quarterback went down with injury. The Eagles beat Tom Brady. Below are some fun Eagles / Jim Schwartz stats:
Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns defense has averaged 19th of 32 teams in terms of points allowed (technically it was 19.2 but I’m rounding down for the boys).
While the recent Browns teams have boasted individually talented defensive players (mostly Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward) the team performance has been subpar. Since the end of the magical 2020 season, Andrew Berry has invested substantial resources and effort in bolstering the defense.
There were a considerable amount of defensive breakdowns under former DC Joe Woods. Whenever defensive players had to go to the podium for a post-game losses, it was brutal. Those press conferences were blame games riddled with confusion and frustration.
Losses will occur, mistakes will happen, but there were moments where it looked like players flat out didn’t care.
Hopefully the missing puzzle piece is a coach that can lead men. Hopefully Jim Schwartz is that coach. The Browns are still a very young team. Sometimes young players respond well to authoritative badasses.
The word around Berea is that coach Schwartz does not put up with any bullshit. Maybe he can inspire a defense and unlock their full potential. Maybe they will get the occasional stop on 3rd and 17.
I like to imagine Jim Schwartz as that guy who was the captain in the movie 300 (that same actor was also a very badass Greek second-in-command in the movie Troy). These characters were leaders that were loved, respected, and feared by their men. A classic Jim Schwartz personification. Hopefully.
While talk is cheap, Schwartz seems to view his players as more than chess pieces. He acknowledges human nature. He wants his team (of humans) to play inspired.
The desire to ‘lead the league in passion for the game and effort’ is something to pay attention to. If the team can buy into this mantra, maybe the Browns can be something special. I am tired of feeling dead inside on NFL Sundays. That pain does not leave until about Thursday. Please succeed on your quest, Jim Schwartz.
In summary, Watson needs to return to the player he once was and Jim Schwartz needs to turn the entire defense into an elite unit of badasses. Otherwise, the Browns are probably screwed.
The Browns are back in Cleveland this week for training camp. The Hall of Fame game is set to kickoff at 8 pm ET on Thursday, August 3rd. The Cleveland Browns third string will be facing off against the New York Jets fourth string.
LETS GO BROWNS!