After years in the doldrums, the Cleveland Browns are looking like serious contenders in the AFC, thanks to a remarkable rebuilding job modeled on the famed ‘Moneyball’ approach.
The brainchild of Browns executive Paul DePodesta – the man behind the famous ‘Moneyball’ approach of the Oakland Athletics baseball team that inspired the movie of the same name starring Brad Pitt – the Browns shocked the NFL by trading away their high draft picks to other teams in need in exchange for expanded draft capital further down the line.
It was a tactic that left many at the time scratching their heads as a hapless Browns team opted to pass on the likes of Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Deshaun Watson as possible franchise quarterbacks as they remained committed to laying the groundwork for what would come later.
And when the franchise hired John Dorsey as their General Manager it was all systems go, as the Ohio team kicked off their rebuilding phase.
What followed was a resurgence that has propelled the Browns from a team that couldn’t buy a win to an exciting franchise that might just challenge at the sharp end of the AFC in 2019.
They held on to last season’s number-one draft pick and, in a draft year that offered a handful of highly-rated quarterback prospects, picked the the most mercurial player of the bunch in Baker Mayfield.
The University of Oklahoma quarterback brought immediate swagger and a fresh new confidence to the team and, along with other young stars Nick Chubb and David Njoku, plus veteran receiver Jarvis Landry, kick-started the Browns’ previously stuttering offense.
And now, after a shock trade with the New York Giants, the Browns have added another offensive A-lister to their lineup with the arrival of Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham’s arrival shows that Cleveland aren’t just building for the future – they’re building to win right now. And the acquisition of one of the most talented pass-catchers in the game represents a real statement of intent heading into the 2019 NFL season.
As a result, fans and pundits are now salivating at the prospect of seeing just how far the Browns can go in 2019. Former Browns tight end and current NFL Network pundit Joe Thomas suggested that: “When you look at this roster… there are no holes.”
And when you assess who the Browns now have in key positions, it’s hard not to agree.
They have a brilliant young quarterback at the helm in the form of Mayfield, a deep threat who can catch just about anything in Beckham, plus a slot receiver – Landry – who is as good as they come at receiving passes across the middle. Throw in a big, physical tight end in Njoku and a dynamic running back star in Chubb and things are looking very good on offense.
It’s not too bad on the other side of the ball, too with the top-drawer draft acquisitions of Myles Garrett up front and Denzel Ward in the secondary.
The Browns were the laughing stock of the NFL as little as two years ago, but after years of ridicule in the NFL’s basement – and after a series of shrewd moves and some big-name arrivals – the Browns finally look like serious contenders.
Now it’s just a case of sitting back and watching the new-look Browns take the field and show us just how good they can be.
#Browns DE Myles Garrett was just asked on @nflnetwork: Are you the team to beat in the AFC North?
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think the tide has turned and we can’t wait to get out there and prove it. It looks good on paper, but we gotta prove it.”
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 13, 2019
Defensive end Myles Garrett put it best: “I think the tide has turned and we can’t wait to get out there and prove it. It looks good on paper, but we gotta prove it.”