When It Comes to the Browns, When Can We Talk About Football?

Deshaun Watson Browns

Getty Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns is introduced by general manager Andrew Berry (L) and head coach Kevin Stefanski during a press conference at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on March 25, 2022 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

Randy Mueller, the 2000 NFL Executive of the Year, brings over 30 years of experience in the football business, including stints as the general manager of Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. With Heavy, Mueller breaks down the NFL from a front office perspective. You can follow Randy on Twitter @RandyMueller_

We are now under 100 days and counting to the NFL regular season of 2022 beginning. For some teams, their fan base and analysts have already dissected their rosters through a microscope, but when it comes to the Cleveland Browns, it just hasn’t seemed right to talk football.

Since making the move for QB Deshaun Watson and the headline-grabbing $230 million fully guaranteed contract I, for one, have felt no need or interest in breaking down this Browns roster or looking ahead to what kind of a season this might be. 

I still can’t help but wonder: Did the Browns’ decision-makers misjudge the incoming reaction from fans and others in response to a move like this? 

The reaction has been an onslaught of negativity toward a franchise that had become the favorite of many for hope and “how-to” during their rebuild. The Browns were the flavor of the month to come out of the competitive AFC North before a disappointing 2021 campaign.

Now, nobody even wants to talk about them. 

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Have the Browns Overplayed Their Hand?

There are more questions than answers with the Browns right now. A direction that is being challenged by protests from all walks of life won’t seem to go away, and even Clevelanders are having to admit they have a slightly upset stomach with the decisions that have been made.

It’s a vibe that I have had trouble explaining, even for myself. I don’t know that I have ever had this feeling about a particular team. The legal stuff is way beyond my pay grade and I’m not judging the guilt or character of anyone involved. I’m just trying to explain my feelings. 

Add to the Watson cloud over the franchise with the way the Baker Mayfield situation has played out and you really have doubts about the team building.

For a team of decision-makers known for Ivy League smarts, the question has to be asked: Have they overplayed their hands with Mayfield and underplayed the negativity to Watson?

Business decisions that might make sense on paper don’t always equate to the world of locker rooms and media agendas.

Mayfield Still Likely to be Cut This Offseason?

I tried this week to project their season and match up the 2022 schedule with others. I had no luck. Too many questions remain. I still think a long suspension is in the offing in the Watson case. Maybe even more than one, depending on all the legal wrangling.

I can’t imagine Mayfield not being cut at some point. I just don’t see the distraction nor the upside of any possible trade being worth it. But yet, the Browns brass holds true to thinking they have leverage. 

I have been involved in controversy within an NFL building before. You can put your head in the sand and carry on for a short time but eventually, it wears everyone out. Emotions, distractions and doubts are draining, even when you don’t have a game that counts for three months. As a leader, I felt the need to provide a clear-cut direction and to start the healing. I’m not sure any of that can happen under the present circumstances that exist in Cleveland. 

Sure, there has to be pride that gets swallowed. Maybe the message and direction that was sold to ownership has to change before a move can be recalculated (I’m referring to the Mayfield situation).

Even if they settle the Mayfield drama, the Watson cases may not give the team any clarity. They need the fog to clear for the team to start to come together as a team.  As a decision-maker, I would not sleep a wink during the break between OTA’s and training camp, if we didn’t have some kind of clarity. 

Maybe then, we can talk football when it comes to the Browns and what we might see between the lines. Until then, my mind just doesn’t go there. 

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