It’s finally happening.
The Cleveland Browns are becoming a quality football team right in front of our faces.
You might be thinking, “Owen, they’re 4-6-1 and are last in their division. How could they possibly be a good football team?” And I would say shut your lips and learn a thing or two.
The Browns record is deceiving because until 3 weeks ago, they were led by the human equivalent of a wet fart, Hue Jackson. Jackson derailed the Browns early in the season by just being Hue Jackson. In fact, the only smart decision he made in his entire three–year tenure with the team was starting Baker Mayfield, and anyone with a brain could see that the Heisman winner deserved to start after relieving an injured Tyrod Taylor and leading the team to a win over the Jets in Week 3—the team‘s first win in 635 days, mind you.
Since firing Hue Jackson and OC Todd Haley, and naming defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as the interim head coach, the Browns are 2-1 with the one loss coming against the juggernaut known as the Kansas City Chiefs. The boys from Cleveland picked apart an overmatched Falcons team, with Nick Chubb showing that he should’ve been starting all year after totalling over 200 yards of total offense with 2 touchdowns in Week 10. The Browns then followed that up by dismantling the in-state rival Bengals, 35-20, and picking up their first road win in three years.
The Browns have had two season–defining moments since Jackson was canned; The “I woke up feeling dangerous” quote from Baker Mayfield after torching the Falcons, and Damarious Randall handing off an intercepted pass to Hue Jackson, now the Bengals D coordinator, on the Bengals sideline.
That was hilarious.
This team is white hot right now, and Everything is clicking. Baker Mayfield is playing like a true number one overall pick, and if it weren’t for Saquon Barkley, would likely be a favorite for the offensive ROTY. Denzel Ward is making everyone who laughed at the Browns for selecting him 4th overall look very stupid as he has quietly become one of the best shutdown quarters in the league. Nick Chubb looks like an absolute steal after being taken in the second round and turning into the team‘s leading back. Myles Garrett is legitimately one of the best pass rushers in the league. And, Mayfield is spreading the ball around to all of his receivers and making people like David Njoku, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, and of course Jarvis Landry look like downright studs.
Now, even a ridiculous optimist like myself can see that there are glaring problems with this team. The hole left by Joe Thomas at left tackle has yet to be filled and it shows. The receiving corps, while producing, is void of much talent outside of Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway, and the linebacker group could use some depth. But what should make the AFC North, as well as the whole league, scared is that the team is only going to progress. They have a top 15 pick in the draft coming, as well as a buttload of mid–round draft picks, and will probably have a ton of money to play with next offseason.
But, the Browns’ biggest need going into next season will be the man at the helm. Even though notorious asshole Gregg Williams has the team looking good right now, I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to have such a dickish head coach with such a young roster. Now, there are the usual suspects who will be looking for head coaching gigs come spring. Guys like John Defilippo, Josh McDaniels, Jim Bob Cooter, and Dan Campbell will likely get a look from the Browns higher-ups, as will former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, apparently.
But what I think is the best option for the Browns head coach might be the most gimmicky, but also the smartest.
In just two years as Oklahoma’s head coach, Lincoln Riley has quickly staked his claim as one of the best coaches in all of college football, going 23-3 over his first two seasons and making the Big 12 his bitch along the way. Riley coached Baker Mayfield during his senior year and helped Baker Baker Touchdown Maker to the 2017 Heisman, as well as leading the team to an appearance in the Rose Bowl the same year. The Sooners look to be on pace for another NY6 bowl game this year if all things go well this Saturday versus Texas.
The point is that Lincoln Riley, while still new to the coaching world and still very young at just 35 years old, might be the best option for the Cleveland Browns going forward. Even though Riley said that he isn’t interested in being an NFL coach right now, money talks. And the Browns have the money to spend. If they can convince Riley that Cleveland is the best place to be by writing him a blank check, than so be it. This may seem like I’m just saying “Baker was good under Riley in college so shoot, it’s gotta work in the pros.“ But, I legitemently think that Riley is the right man for the job.
People may also look at his age and experience and gawk, saying how he won’t be able to control the team. To those fools, I say look at what Sean McVay has done in Los Angeles. It’s no longer crazy to think that young coaches are capable of handling professional athletes egos and are able to motivate their players just as well as any other grizzly old bastard.
The Browns need to get Riley and get him as soon as they can. This team is in prime position to run the AFC North for years to come. The Steelers are aging, the Bengals flat out stink, and who knows about the Ravens (Side note: Lamar Jackson is looking pretty dang good so far).
The years of futility are coming to an end soon. The factory of sadness is closing down.
The Dawg pound is BARKING.
Photo: Joe Robbins- Getty Images