The Cleveland Browns will open the 2019 regular season dealing with a level of expectations that the franchise has not encountered in more than three decades.
A winning record will be considered, by some, a “disappointment.” A playoff berth will suffice for many; while only a Super Bowl run will be enough for a segment of the fan base that has overdosed on hype since the end of last season.
The man who has played a large role in creating the current team is general manager John Dorsey, who upon being hired in December of 2017 stated his desire to “re-awake this sleeping giant, the Cleveland Browns.” (That was a phrase borrowed from Gabe Paul, who during his time as general manager of the Cleveland Indians in the 1980s often talked about how Cleveland was a baseball town in search of a winning team.)
It only took until midway through the 2018 season for the giant to awake, as the Browns closed out the year by winning five of their final seven games and just miss out on their first winning season since 2007.
Now, however, Dorsey wants to temper the expectations.
Speaking at last week’s press conference to announce Cleveland as the host of the 2021 NFL Draft, Dorsey looked to temper the expectations of a rabid fan base, per The Athletic’s Zac Jackson via Bleacher Report:
“It is hype. That is (all) it is. Football is played in the fall the last I have seen. Now, you have to go to training camp and you have to earn the respect that everybody is talking about. How do you do that? You have 53 guys with the single mindset and the collectivism of driving this thing forward. That is where it is. Games are won and lost in the fall. That is how we are going to approach this thing. I have always lived by the mantra ‘1-0.’ It is one game at a time, and you have to live that.”
It’s nice that Dorsey wants everyone to slow down a bit, but there is no way he can put that genie back in the bottle. While attendance and interest in the Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers has always ebbed and flowed based on those team’s ability to compete, the Browns are the region’s top team and their grip on that distinction has only grown tighter in recent months.
The Browns started their latest rebuild in 2016 and Dorsey has quickly turned a solid foundation into a team that has caught the attention of everyone in the NFL. And with that has come expectations that may not be completely realistic, but that is the reality for a fan base that has been waiting 30 years for a team that they can truly believe in.
Dorsey created this monster and no matter how much he or head coach Freddie Kitchens remind fans that there is still a lot of hard work ahead, the excitement is only going to build throughout the summer.
The giant is very much awake. It is now up to the Browns to make sure it does not go back to sleep.