In the midst of all this coaching search hoopla, I’m going to take a break from the hot-topic of the
week month season and focus on something that
hasn’t been given all too much attention recently—the changing of the guard in
the AFC North. Ray Lewis is retiring. Hines Ward stepped down from the League
last year. Chad Johnson and Carson Palmer are gone from Cincinnati. Since 1999
I would argue that those four guys were the biggest Browns killers. Yes, Cincy
has Dalton and AJ Green manning the helm of their offense. Yes, guys like
Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace are much bigger factors than Ward was in the
latter stages of his career, and yes, Baltimore’s defense has taken a little
bit of their back seat to Ray Rice and the offense as of late.
But still…are people really concerned about Baltimore
and Cincinnati (Cincy’s
since been eliminated) making a run this post season? The fact of the matter is
the once class division of the NFL is on the decline. This sets up perfect for
a young, talented Cleveland team with a (reportedly) new, innovative coach
coming aboard in the next few days, maybe even hours. (Should have known
better Chip Kelly wasn’t coming when I wrote this last week).
Regardless, no players have been more symbolic or had as much of an impact to our beloved Browns teams as these four guys. These players have had massive impacts. Not only statistically, but emotionally as leaders of their respective squads.
Regardless of who the next coach of the Browns is, ask yourself this: do you have faith in Jimmy Haslam (I purposely exclude Joe Banner because I don’t, and Haslam is going to have final say regardless) to make the right choice for our new head coach? I’d hope the answer is yes. If so, ask yourself another question: are you optimistic about the young talent that this team has on its roster? The answer to this should be an emphatic yes.
So keep your chin up Browns fans. The most hated players of our biggest rivals have come and passed. Our young team is on the rise. Optimism rains on the lakeshore. Well, let’s not get too crazy and call ourselves optimistic—as we know, we are Browns fans. But let’s err on the side of cautious optimism. Maybe the tides are changing . . .