Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns

We Want to Believe, But The Numbers Don't

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There is generally precious little to be gleaned from those half-speed practices known generically as offseason team activities, or OTAs. But in Berea, Ohio, where the Browns gathered early in the summer to run laps and hit the pads, there was a clear goal coming out of camp: Beat the Chiefs. That's right, the team that has been a laughingstock for basically the entirety of the 21st century no longer feels that the likes of the Ravens or Steelers are its direct competition. The Browns have their eyes set firmly on the two-time AFC champs who defeated them in the divisional round en route to the Super Bowl, a game that apparently was just the opening salvo in a larger, "Michael Jordan had to lose to the Pistons before he could beat them" war.

Even the practices themselves were fodder for the budding "rivalry," at least on the Browns' end of things. When asked if he was surprised that the Chiefs started OTAs earlier and had more players attend, Cleveland's star defensive end Myles Garrett snapped, "When we get to Game 1, we'll see who's been jelling better and who's got the upper hand."

By the by, said Game 1 will take place in Kansas City. Browns vs Chiefs—this time it's personal! This is probably as good a place as any to note that Cleveland hasn't won on opening Sunday since 2004.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a little offseason optimism. And it is certainly true that the 2020 Browns had a heck of a season under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski. They won 11 games, made the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and got the first postseason win since the team was rebooted in 1999—over the hated Steelers, no less. And they did give the Chiefs a scare in that divisional playoff game, although the fact that Patrick Mahomes watched most of the second half from the sideline seems particularly relevant to the tightness of the score. The folks in the Browns sales department surely didn't care much, hiking the cost of season tickets while calculating...