Duke Johnson got traded! Now he’s on the Texans. This feels like a win for all involved to me. The Browns will feed the Chubb and eventually get Kareem Hunt back. The Texans could use a solid veteran RB since Lamar Miller hasn’t lived up to billing. Duke Johnson wanted to leave Cleveland. Really everyone wins.

I figured instead of going into that stuff I could use this time to probably end up on freezing cold takes and proclaim that I don’t think the Browns are going to be great this season, despite everything positive that has happened. They have the potential to be great. All the potential in the world sits in Cleveland. They’ve got a hotshot QB, stud wide receivers, solid defensive anchors…it’s all there. It just has to execute.

Maybe it’s my inherent pessimism, or the fact that since the Browns biggest move came at the expense of my own team and I’ve been hearing it ever since so it’s just gotten to me, but I honestly have my doubts. I’ve gone into every football season in the last 5 years with a steadfast belief in three universal truths:

1. The Giants will make me sad
2. The Patriots will win everything
3. The Browns will Browns

All 3 of these things I feel are my universal truths, only to be proven wrong when they are actually proven wrong. The Giants will make me sad until the instant they don’t. The Patriots will win and continue to win everything until the instant they don’t. The Browns will continue to wallow in Brownsness until the instant they don’t. Until any of these things officially happen, I refuse to accept they aren’t already true. I don’t consider what has happened to the Browns in the past year to be defeating that truth. Not yet. I need to see them make the playoffs before I’m willing to believe in another possibility. It’s the same way I need to see Tom Brady and the Patriots miss the playoffs and look bad before I ever believe that their dynasty is over.

So while the Browns have accumulated an absurd amount of hype and expectations, I have doubts. There is a part of my brain screaming “DUDE JUST LET THE BROWNS FANS HAVE THIS, YOU ASS” at me but if I hate myself everyone else has to hate themselves too. Misery loves company. There is even a dark, evil part of my brain that kid of wants the Browns to implode just so I can look at everyone hyped up and scream “THIS IS WHY HOPE IS FOR FOOOOOOLS”

Here are my concerns with the Browns:
1. OBJ has played 16 games just once. 3 of his seasons have had injuries plague him. I think it’s foolish to assume he will stay healthy when his track record might actually indicate the opposite
2. The entire team is full of BIG PERSONALITIES. The Coach, the QB, the WRs…they all got attitude. Attitude rules, but only when the team is winning. When a team struggles with this much attitude, things tend to get ugly and distracting, especially in the media.
3. The head coach is very unproven. Freddie Kitchens went from RB coach to OC to HC in the span of half a season. He’s never been a head coach before. It was easy to look better than Hue “Literally the worst coach I may have ever seen” Jackson, and I worry our expectations for the guy are based around him gleefully clearing the world’s lowest bar.
4. Half a good season. They finished 2018 strong, but it came against middling teams. The Falcons were broken and underperforming. The Bengals (2x) were a mess. The Panthers were in an even year, beating the even year Panthers doesn’t count. The Broncos were trash. They looked competitive in losses to the Chiefs, Texans, and Ravens, but still lost. It was a marked improvement from the first half of the season, but again: the world’s lowest bar.
5. They actually have a very favorable schedule in 2019. On paper. A lot of what makes the 2019 Browns look so good remains just that: paper. What looks like an easy schedule now may turn into a gauntlet.
6. This is not the first time the Browns have had hype or expectations. It’s hard to remember it after 3 years of Hue “literally the worst coach I’ve ever seen” Jackson, but it has been there. Everyone is acting like this is different, but this team has still been hyped before. I remember the Johnny Football hype. I remember Derek Anderson to Braylon Edwards hype. The Browns might have a bit more talent than they did then, and they might have a good but small sample size of positive trends to back it up, but I’ve seen hype before. Hype is dangerous.
7. They are the Browns, and until they show me they are not The Browns, they remain The Browns.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for reading this list to dismiss me as just a bitter asshole who doesn’t have any real legitimate concerns so he’s using a bunch of gut feelings to validate himself. I probably am doing just that. But the fact remains I’m worried we’ve done the thing as a collective sporting fanbase and assumed that since a few things went one way, that this is how the future works. How many times have people foretold the end of the Patriots dynasty based on little evidence and hope? How many times have they been right? I want, even hope, the Browns stomp the AFC this year. I want to live in a world where the Browns are no longer the punchline so we can go all in on someone else like the Skins or Bills. But until they actually do that, I feel like maybe we should somewhat peel back our expectations this year, expect a few hiccups, and root for them to make the playoffs.