The general feeling about the Cleveland Browns in 2008 is polarizing to the extreme.
On one side you have those who have the Browns as the “sexy pick” of the year.
They are a young, exciting team who greatly exceeded expectations in 2007, that features a dynamic offense, and plays an inordinate amount of close, dramatic games.
A team who’s General Manager, Phil Savage, made some bold, yet risky, moves to fix a weak defensive line that he identified as a problem.
A team for the first time since its reincarnation has a core group of players who have carried over from the past couple of seasons.
A team, which for the first time since the early 1990s, has some high profile, budding players that are recognized nationally.
On the other side you have the nay-sayers who believe the Browns’ 2007 success was based on a weak schedule and down year for the AFC North.
Those pundits say that despite going 10-6 and missing the playoffs by a tiebreaker, the Browns blew a chance at the post-season by producing a late season stink pickle against the Cincinnati Bengals.
That there is no way they will be able to repeat that kind of performance in 2008. They say that the performances of Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow were a fluke.
They haven’t beaten the hated Pittsburgh Steelers in almost five years. And the 2008 schedule? No way will the Browns make it out alive with games against the NFC East and AFC South.
And with all those prime time and 4:00 pm games the Browns will wilt under the pressure of the limelight.
But my question to you, the Cleveland Browns faithful, whichever side you may fall on is this:
ISN’T THIS WHAT WE WANT AS CLEVELAND BROWNS FANS?!?!?
To see if 2007 was an aberration or a stepping stone to the next level?
To see if the Reincarnation of the Kardiac Kids can produce points at the same rate?
To see if Phil Savage’s atypical way of addressing the porous defensive line will work?
To see how the team responds after faltering down the stretch and blowing a playoff spot last year?
To see if Derek Anderson is the QB of the future for this franchise or if the Golden Boy, Brady Quinn, is the real deal?
To see if the Browns can actually take care of business against the arrogant Appalachian Inbred a couple hours SE on the turnpike and make it a real rivalry once again?
To see how the Browns stack up against the crème de la crème of the NFL?
For too long the psyche of the Cleveland Browns fan has been fragile at best. They have seen a lot of lows, especially lately, but they are still here living, breathing and barking.
I understand the trepidation that comes with high expectations. You need look no further than the 2008 Cleveland Indians who have crumbled under the weight of perception.
One always has to be realistic in any situation.
But that doesn’t mean to expect failure either. It’s time to shed “the woe is me” attitude that often permeates a Cleveland sports fan.
It’s time to stop blaming things on bad luck or curses. Those are just excuses for failing to get the job done or being beaten by the better team.
Suck it up and be a man, learn from past failures and use it to make yourself better. You are a Cleveland Browns fan, dammit!
For the first time since 1995, the Cleveland Browns have legitimate, lofty hopes and dreams. Whether the 2008 season ends with them at 6-10, 8-8 or 10-6 it will tell us exactly where they stand in the hierarchy of the NFL.
How they match up against the league’s best. How they handle the pressure of being on the National TV stage week in and week out. How they handle those lofty expectations.
Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, it will be stressful. Yes, it will have its ups and downs. And yes, it will be thrilling.
But as a Cleveland Browns fan, isn’t that exactly what you want?