Cleveland Browns: Is ending the playoff drought enough?

Is getting into the postseason enough for the Cleveland Browns?

When the Cleveland Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999, it brought life back to the city and the fanbase. While fans weren’t looking for an immediate playoff berth, they were glad to have head coach Chris Palmer and quarterbacks Ty Detmer and Tim Couch leading the return.

Although the team ended the season with a 2-14 record, there was still an aura in the city, knowing that their football team was back. While a lot has changed since the 1999 return, the same passion for football still brews for the Cleveland fan base.

In the twenty-two seasons that have passed since 1999, the Browns have hired a record number of head coaches (12) and have had 28 different starting quarterbacks. Only three of the 12 coaches have secured winning records (2002 Butch Davis: 9-7, 2007 Romeo Crennel: 10-6, and 2020 Kevin Stefanski). Of the two winning seasons the Browns have completed, they’ve only made one playoff appearance, as a wildcard, in the 2002-2003 season.

That playoff run didn’t last long, as they lost 33-36 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wildcard matchup. To put it lightly, the fans have gone through hell and back with the Cleveland Browns since the return.

The 2019 season, however, lit a spark within the media and fanbase when the Browns added offensive weapon, Odell Beckham Jr. to the roster and hired head coach Freddie Kitchens. The Browns were coming off of a hot finish in the previous season, and expectations for success were at an all-time high.

Media and fans alike were expecting, at the very least, a winning season and were hopeful for a spot in the playoffs. The team and coach, however, did not live up to the standards set for their success, finishing the season with a 6-10 record.

For the 22 seasons that have passed since the Browns return to Cleveland, fans have longed for a season that would end in a playoff run and ultimately a Lombardi Trophy. So now that the Browns are playing “good” football, what will it take to make the die-hard fans happy? Going into week 14 of the season the Browns are holding onto a 9-4 record, with an 84 percent chance to make the playoffs, but is this enough?

Simply making the playoffs would be a first in 18 seasons, but is simply making it to Round 1 or a wildcard spot good enough? There’s no doubt that this roster is talented, on offense and defense, when healthy. So, is it too much to ask for, for a long run in the postseason? Are expectations too high, once again? Should fans be expected to be happy with just a winning season (for the 1st time in 13 years)?

As the final 3 games of the 2020 season play out, we will see just how ready this Browns team is to face the pressures of a long-awaited, possible postseason run.