Having not made the playoffs since 2002, the Cleveland Browns are a rebuilt organization that has transformed from winless team to playoff contender in just over a year. The man leading this dramatic turnaround is the new king of Cleveland, and his name is John Dorsey.
The Cleveland Browns hired general manager John Dorsey in December 2017. In just over a year, Dorsey has helped transform the laughable losers of six miserable seasons under the Haslam ownership. Cleveland has suffered through four head coaches and four general managers. The Browns only won one game in the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined, which is the worst two-year stretch in NFL history. However, the Browns are now heading into the 2019 season as the team with the fifth highest odds to win Super Bowl LIV.
Dorsey has a vision for the Cleveland Browns and has kept his focus on making shrewd moves to acquire “real” players to make the Browns a perennial contender in the AFC North. Let’s take a look at a few of the most important moves that have returned the energy and excitement to the city of Cleveland.
About this time last year, Dorsey made a trade with the Miami Dolphins to acquire wide receiver Jarvis Landry. He was coming off a great year in 2017 in which he led the NFL in receptions with 112. The Browns had absolutely nothing but issues at wide receiver with the Josh Gordon ongoing saga and a slew of question marks.
Landry had averaged 100 catches and 1,000 yards in his four years in Miami. He had also caught more passes in his first four seasons (400) than any player in NFL history.
Landry brought a toughness and leadership to the Browns that they drastically lacked. In HBO’s “Hard Knocks, Landry gave a passionate speech about players taking time off. He explained that maximum effort results in a winning culture and that it is contagious. An expression that was praised by coaches and players and initiated the high energy no-nonsense approach that was needed to succeed in the NFL.
The much-needed dismissal of head coach Hue Jackson
Hue Jackson will go down as the worst head coach in NFL history. The fact that he even coached in 2017 AFTER he “led” the Browns to a 1-15 record in 2016 is utterly ridiculous. To compound that lunacy, he remained the head coach in 2017 when the Browns suffered through the second ever 0-16 record in NFL history. In what can only be described as senseless, Jackson remained the head coach at the onset of the 2018 season.
Mercifully, Dorsey finally has seen enough and dismissed Hue Jackson after the Browns started the season at 2-5-1. The Browns won the two games in spite of Jackson, not because of him. Jackson’s insistence of leaving Tyrod Taylor as the quarterback even after his poor play was indefensible. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield came in the second quarter and led the Browns to a come from behind victory. Of course, the rest, as they say, is history.
In addition to the dismissal of Hue Jackson, the Browns fired offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Both moves were obvious and long overdue. The Browns promoted defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to interim head coach and running back coach Freddie Kitchens to offensive coordinator.
The duo helped the Browns to the most significant turnaround in franchise history by finishing 7-8-1 a year after they went 0-16. The exceptional rise for Kitchens continued as Dorsey named Kitchens the Browns 18th head coach in franchise history. The dramatic offensive improvement and the bromance between Kitchens and Baker were essential to the meteoric rise last season. Dorsey is hoping this will also catapult the duo to even greater heights in 2019 and beyond.
The 2018 NFL Draft
Cleveland’s 2018 NFL Draft picks precipitated the dramatic turnaround for the franchise. In his first NFL draft with the Browns, Dorsey shocked the universe by taking quarterback Baker Mayfield. Several quarterbacks were vying for the number one selection. After a private workout, Dorsey explains why he knew that Mayfield was his guy:
“With regards to Baker’s ability, I thought he has great accuracy, I think he has a quick release, he’s got feet to extend the play, he’s got a strong enough arm,” Dorsey said. “Statistically, you look at the statistics that he has, he was one or two in all these different categories. And then when you watch his teammates galvanize to him at certain parts of the game, you know this guy’s got a little bit of ‘it’ factor.”
Of course, Mayfield proved to be better than advertised. Mayfield didn’t start until the fourth game but still finished with 27 passing touchdowns, which broke the season record for the most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback.
Baker brought a swagger to the team, and his play and confidence led the Browns to a shocking 7-8-1 record in 2018. He elevates the talent around him. The Browns have finally found their franchise quarterback thanks to John Dorsey.
Three picks after selecting Mayfield, Dorsey made another fantastic selection. He selected cornerback Denzel Ward out of Ohio State with the fourth overall pick. Ward started 12 games and quickly emerged as Cleveland’s top cornerback. He was named to the Pro Bowl and the 2018 NFL All-Rookie Team.
In the early second round of last year’s draft, the Browns selected running back Nick Chubb (35th overall) out of Georgia. Chubb found himself buried behind Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson on the team’s depth chart. However, in a late September game, Chubb came in and turned three carries into 105 yards and two scores against the Oakland Raiders.
The Browns needed to get Chubb’s big-play potential in the lineup and finally decided to make a move by trading running back Carlos Hyde to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Chubb became the featured back and along with Baker, revitalized the Browns offense. He totaled 996 yards and eight touchdowns on 192 carries, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
The Browns’ 2018 rookie class exceeded all expectations. The influx of talent has the franchise headed in the right direction. They have made significant steps forward in playing competitive football in Cleveland for years to come.
The 2019 Off-Season
John Dorsey looked to build upon the considerable momentum from the 2018 season. He diagnosed the team and found the holes that were necessary to be filled to get the Browns to a competitive level with the remaining teams in the AFC North.
Dorsey decided to give a star player a second chance by signing running back Kareem Hunt, who was released by the Kansas City Chiefs after a report surfaced that he punched and kicked a woman at a Cleveland hotel.
There was some backlash concerning this signing due to the crudeness of Hunt’s actions. However, Dorsey believed that Hunt was remorseful enough that he was worthy of another opportunity.
The NFL suspended Kareem Hunt for eight games of the 2019 season. Hunt is an ultra-talented running back who scored 14 total touchdowns in 2018. Hunt is from Cleveland and looks to join a Browns offense that looks like a fantasy football lineup with all of the explosive players. If he can get his head together, this was another shrewd move by Dorsey to add this type of superior talent.
The Browns traded for defensive end Olivier Vernon from the New York Giants in exchange for offensive guard Kevin Zeitler. They will also swap their 2019 fifth-round pick (155 overall) with the Giants’ fourth-round selection (132 overall) as a part of the deal.
Vernon collected seven sacks and 21 quarterback hits last season, despite missing the first four games with a high-ankle sprain. He was selected to the first Pro Bowl of his seven-year career while ranking as the NFL’s No. 14 edge rusher per Pro Football Focus. In three seasons since signing an $85 million contract with the Giants, Vernon has 22 sacks and 131 total tackles.
Zeitler, who signed with the Browns in 2017, was ranked as Pro Football Focus’s sixth-best offensive guard in 2018, allowing just one pressure in pass protection for every 63 snaps. Dorsey believes that 2018 second round draft pick Austin Corbett is ready to take over for Zeitler.
Cleveland agreed to terms with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a three-year contract. Richardson appeared in all 16 games last season, racking up a total of 49 tackles (six for a loss), 16 quarterback hits, and 4.5 sacks. During his six-year career, he has made 333 total tackles, 40 tackles for loss, 23.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles.
The addition of Richardson should help the defense that allowed the fifth most rushing yards last season, giving up 135.2 yards per game, and 4.7 yards-per-carry.
Richardson will join a Browns defensive line that has become a fearsome unit. He will be starting alongside Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, and the newly-acquired Olivier Vernon. Currently, the average age of the Browns starting defensive line is 25-years-old.
Odell Beckham Jr.
In the most significant trade in Cleveland Browns history, Dorsey made an incredible acquisition of wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. In exchange, Cleveland gave up their first and third round picks in next month’s NFL Draft and safety Jabrill Peppers.
Dorsey is building something exciting in Cleveland. The conjecture is that the Browns will have one of the best offenses in the NFL next season. Dorsey is continuing to develop the talent around his young franchise quarterback. There is no better way to build is to grab a bona fide number one wide receiver in Beckham. According to NFL.com, since entering the NFL in 2014, Beckham ranks third in targets per game (10.5), fourth in receptions per game (6.6), third in receiving yards per game (92.8) and third in receiving touchdowns (44). The Mayfield-Beckham combo will rival the Patrick Mahomes–Tyreek Hill, Aaron Rodgers-DaVante Adams, and Deshaun Watson–DeAndre Hopkins as the top quarterback-wide receiver combo in the NFL.
I had initially feared what the Browns would have to give up to get the three-time Pro-Bowler. However, Dorsey got Beckham for a bag of chips and a Snickers bar compared to what I balked at the Browns spending to acquire the former LSU Tiger.
Dorsey decided that any negativity concerning Beckham being a me-first guy will be overshadowed by his best friend and former college teammate Jarvis Landry. Both will have their former LSU coach Adam Henry here in Cleveland coaching the wide receiver group. That trio along with the already established friendship with Baker should cement the status for Beckham as the alpha-dog in the Browns offense.
How does the Browns offense compare to the others in the AFC North?
With the additions of Odell Beckham, Jr. and Kareem Hunt, this offense should be lethal. Baker will have an army of explosive weapons in this offense. How does it compare to the other offenses in the AFC North? Considering the enormous losses that the offenses of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have suffered, there is a wide open opportunity for the Browns to capitalize.
Please view below for the breakdown of each team and their offensive weapons:[table id=3 /]
Which set of offensive weapons do you fear the most in the AFC North? The Browns looked to be the landslide winner here.
Please let us know what you think @PFN365.
John Dorsey is the new King in Cleveland
What a time to be a Browns fan! Dorsey has set the team to be a perennial contender. The expectations for the Browns are at a fever pitch. As mentioned, there is talk about the Cleveland Browns and the Super Bowl. John Dorsey knows that the team can not stop working and will need to prove it on the field:
“Expectations, I hear a lot about that, but I know this — good football teams, they win in the fall,” Dorsey said Thursday, a day after the Browns officially landed Beckham in a franchise-changing trade from the New York Giants. “What we have done is we have added some talent. Now, the chemistry part has to take over with it.
“Teams win in the fall. They do not win in March, and that is good teams.”
John Dorsey made a bold move in selecting Baker Mayfield as the franchise quarterback. He hit the jackpot on Baker. He will now have more weapons in an offense that is catered to his game by a good friend and present head coach Freddie Kitchens. Kitchens has also brought in another established offensive mind in Todd Monken to continue the development of the former Sooner. The offensive talent surrounding Baker is elite, and this offense should be one of the top offenses in the NFL.
The talk of the Browns even being in contention for the Super Bowl is sending the city in complete hysteria. Baker and Odell. Jarvis and Chubb. Please remember that John Dorsey selected the players. He made the trades that former general manager Sashi Brown did not. Dorsey has earned the honor of seeing the 2019 Cleveland Browns with the most favorable Super Bowl odds in franchise history. There is a new king in Cleveland, and yes, his name is John Dorsey.