2017 Browns Off-Season: Narrative Killer

Negative narrative has followed the Browns as long as their record. The constant focus on the negatives has frustrated many, including this writer. The 2017 off-season has been a narrative killer in a few ways.

There are things that are believed about the Cleveland Browns that are very true, or at least seem to be:

  • They have been terrible on the field.
  • They have been run worse off the field.
  • They haven't found a QB to stick with.
  • They haven't found a coaching staff either.
  • They always reach and have to overpay.
  • They never get the best talent.
  • They can't keep top level talent.
  • They overthink things.
  • They always have drama.

Being true in the past doesn't predict the future yet many fans and media assume they do. There has been a belief that the Browns will continue to repeat their mistakes, over and over again.

Much like the stock market, the past doesn't possess predictive factors. This is especially true when the only thing the same about the team since their return is the stadium and name. 

Even the uniforms are different, for worse or worse. (No that is not a typo of repetitive words.)

That is where the negative narrative comes from. For fans and media, this is a story that has been building since 1999, even though everything up to the owner has changed since then.

For this Browns regime, their history goes back to last year when they were all hired. They don't have the same history that the fans and media do. They are not trying to make up for all the mistakes of the past. They are not trying to "win now because it has been too long."

This regime, with Sashi Brown, Hue Jackson, Andrew Berry and Paul DePodesta, just kicked off Year 2 this off-season. While Year 1 wasn't perfect, they will admit to that, with losing players and not addressing needs quickly, they hit the ground running this off-season.

In the end, the Browns will only totally kill the narrative with year after year of competitive teams. Yet this off-season has already killed some of the narratives about the team as a whole, and this regime specifically.

Can Keep Talent

The Browns retained one of the top linebackers in the game, Jamie Collins, while also re-upping one of the best guards in the game, Joel Bitonio. This, along with keeping Joe Thomas around, was a question many asked.

Would Collins, after only being in Cleveland for a few months, really want to stay? Would Bitonio give up a chance to become a free agent instead of going the route of Thomas?

Next on the list is LB Christian Kirksey but the Browns showed this off-season they could keep talent around.

They Don't Have to Overpay

Starting with the Collins contract, the Browns got reasonable deals this off-season in all of their moves. Many expected Collins to test the market and get a huge deal. Instead, he signed with the Browns at a reasonable deal before hitting the market.

Bitonio's deal was big, as was fellow guard's Kevin Zeitler brought over in free agency, but both were within reasonable costs. J.C. Tretter and Kenny Britt were considered two of the top players at their positions in free agency but the Browns were able to secure both on deals that weren't outside of expectations.

Even with a 1 - 15 record, a ton of cap space and a rising salary cap, the Browns were able to keep two top players and bring in three others without having to give out a Paul Kruger-type overpay contract.

They Didn't Overthink or Let Drama Impact Decisions in the NFL Draft

While outsiders discussed the Browns possibly passing on Myles Garrett for Mitchell Trubisky, the Browns stuck to their board and got the best player. 

While some had the media thinking the Browns were going to mess up another decision by overthinking or letting internal drama take over, they did the right thing and got Garrett. 

Mike Silver's piece on NFL.com showed that there wasn't the drama many wanted/expected behind the scenes. There were discussions but healthy ones.

This Group Will Only Trade Down

After the Browns moved down from #12, the narrative was clear: This regime will only trade down. The thought was that this group wasn't aggressive enough to move assets to get the players they wanted.

Forget that the history of trading up, especially for a QB, is mostly bad, this narrative frustrated both media and fans. "None of this matters unless they are willing to get top talent and trading up if they need to."

After drafting Jabrill Peppers, the Browns shook this by trading up for athletic TE David Njoku. The Browns used a 4th Round pick, a starter level pick, to move up 4 picks and snag Njoku.

This was a double positive in that the Browns shook this narrative, they also traded up later in the Draft as well, but they also took both Peppers and Njoku out of the grasp of the rival Steelers.

The Browns Will Take Risks

Both this regime, and in the past, many argued that the Browns never took risks on players who fell below their talent level due to off the field or medical issues.

In this Draft, Peppers was flagged due to a diluted urine sample at the NFL Combine and Caleb Brantley has a lingering legal issue from only a few weeks ago.

Peppers was an option at #12 but fell for a variety of reasons. The Browns were concerned about whether they could get him at #25 but were obviously excited when they got him:

https://twitter.com/Browns/status/859111455962128392

Brantley's situation is still up in the air but the Browns drafted a player in the 6th Round that many expected would be a Day 2 pick. While he will compete with 3rd Rounder Larry Ogunjobi, the Browns took a chance to get talent on the defensive line to fight in the tough AFC North.

Neither is assumed to work, no Draft picks should be, but the Browns took a chance on a couple players against the narrative that they only play it safe.

The Browns Don't Only Value Numbers/Stats

Specifically with Peppers, the Browns went away from the idea that they only draft players who produce at the college level. Peppers had 1 INT and didn't put up huge numbers in college but the team still saw value in him.

Both ends of the spectrum are wrong about numbers/stats in college. Just because a player puts up big numbers in college doesn't mean they will be great pros and vice versa.

Browns Got Top Talent

With Garrett, Peppers and Zane Gonzalez, the Browns got the best players at their positions in some people's opinion. While many loved Jamal Adams at strong safety, some are down on him and don't believe he has the versatility that Peppers does.

With DeShone Kizer, the Browns also got a player that some still had on top of their QB rankings. Far fewer but they still got that player without having to trade up or overthinking things and drafting Davis Webb instead.

Drafting a kicker isn't always a great idea but the team has a ton of picks and they got a stud kicker in the 7th Round.

The Browns got top prospects at a few positions.

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Some narratives still remain to be killed. My guy Scoops Maroun jumped in my DM's when I crowd sourced some narratives that bothered them. His biggest was the team continuing to make silly mistakes when given time to prep. He said it was bad enough that they weren't good on the field but this list from off the field, with time to plan, made it much worse:

Others noted "analytics" don't work, the team's bad beat reporters, that they don't give their staffs long enough to make things work and a bad owner.

Those narratives remain to be killed. It will start with a good product on the field, showing development and keeping this regime around for a few more years to do that.

Can't kill them all in one off-season but the Browns did a pretty good job of killing off some of the narratives that have either haunted the team for years or have been associated with this regime.

What narratives did we miss on?


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