The Cleveland Browns were already going to be a trendy team for the 2019 season.
A strong finish to last year’s campaign, coupled with marketable superstars in quarterback Baker Mayfield and defensive end Myles Garrett, meant the Browns were destined to receive some more national exposure this fall.
But it was the trade for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in March that took things to another level in the eyes of the NFL’s television partners.
When the 2019 schedule was released on Wednesday, fans discovered the Browns with four primetime games, along with a pair of non-West Coast games in the high-profile 4:25 p.m. Sunday time slot.
Albert Breer at Monday Morning Quarterback took a behind-the-scenes look on Thursday at how the league put together the schedule, highlighting the impact the Beckham trade had on the process.
This fall will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Monday Night Football game, which featured the Browns and the New York Jets. With the two teams scheduled to play each other this fall, the league decided a Monday night rematch was appropriate.
But rather than risk having the game be lost in the shuffle, the NFL wanted to have its new stars have the stage to themselves with a Week 2 matchup, VP of broadcasting Onnie Bose told Breer:
“We’d already said [that] this is a game that probably should live on ESPN, on Monday Night Football.That night, Odell [Beckham Jr.] got traded early evening, and then Le’Veon [Bell] got signed overnight. We came into the office the next day and said, ‘Alright, that game has that much more buzz and meaning around it.’”
The game against the Jets will be one of two Monday night appearances for the Browns this season, the other coming October 7 on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. That is due, in part, to ESPN signaling its intentions early on that the network wanted the Browns, as Senior VP of broadcasting Howard Katz told Breer:
“ESPN, to their credit, they’d bought into Cleveland at the end of last season. The Beckham trade reinforced what they wanted.”
The Beckham trade also contributed to the league moving the October 27 game against the New England Patriots and the December 1 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers into the late Sunday afternoon slot as part of the national doubleheader.
That adds up to six high-profile games for the Browns this season, with the possibility of up to two more games being flexed into the Sunday night slot. In the end, the league was just giving the networks what they wanted, according to Katz:
“From every [network] ... literally everybody called and said, ‘We want more Cleveland.’”
Let the games begin.