The hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns heading into the 2019 season is the highest it has been in more than 30 years.
Many national media members who cover the NFL have targeted the Browns as a playoff contender. Many fans have taken it a step further with expectations of a Super Bowl run.
Some of those expectations are justified given the roster that the Browns have built over the past few years. The addition of wide receiver Odell Beckham and the expected maturation of quarterback Baker Mayfield should turn the Browns into a top 10 offense. Defensively, general manager John Dorsey has brought in reinforcements for defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward.
So while there is substance behind the hype, the reality is that this is still a team that has not posted a winning season since 2007, has not made the playoffs since 2002, and has only won 11 total games over the past four seasons.
The man in charge of making sure that hype turns into reality rather than disappointment is first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, who is also No. 2 on Conor Orr’s ranking at Monday Morning Quarterback of the first-year head coaches facing the most pressure:
John Dorsey’s M.O. has always been to take on a large volume of high-risk players and assume that the culture will smooth things out. We’re starting to see the fault in that approach with the team Dorsey built in Kansas City, but for now expectations are high in Cleveland. So high, in fact, that Kitchens wears the weight of a high-profile coaching staff full of name-brand risers in the business and a roster full of mercurial stars. Think this will be an easy gig if the Browns start 0-2?
There is no way of knowing how Kitchens will perform as a head coach until he actually goes out there and does it. But while this is his first time as a head coach, Kitchens is not new to the game. He has been coaching in the NFL since 2006 and should know his way around an NFL sideline.
Kitchens has also kept a level-head when asked about the expectations surrounding the Browns and continues to keep the focus on the hard work that is still ahead of the team.
We’ve been around long enough, however, to realize that a certain level of panic will set in if the Browns struggle in the opening weeks of the season. The inconvenient truth about that is while the Browns will be better this year, they still may be a season away from being a true contender.
That might be a problem in previous years, but this year should be different. While fans and the media will get worked up if the Browns hit a few early bumps on the road, the only person to truly be concerned about is owner Jimmy Haslam, who has continually shown that patience is not one of his stronger qualities.
This is a new year and while that brings new expectations, Dorsey has shown an ability to manage Haslam, so even if the owner starts to get agita, Dorsey should be able to talk Haslam out of doing anything rash.
The expectations for the Browns are high right now and will only increase as the team moves through training camp and the preseason, bringing with it additional pressure.
Bur from what we’ve seen and heard from Kitchens, there is no reason for Browns fans to fear that the pressure will break the new head coach.