The bias is back: Browns predicted to take a step back in 2024 for unbelievable reason

As was the case in 2023 — before they went 11-6 — the Cleveland Browns are predicted to disappoint in 2024

Cleveland Browns, Deshaun Watson
Cleveland Browns, Deshaun Watson / Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite overcoming a myriad of obstacles in 2023 to finish the season with a record of 11-6, the Cleveland Browns remain underappreciated by the national media.

In 2023, Will Brinson of CBS Sports drew the ire of Browns fans when he predicted the team would go 7-10 — which was the same record they had in 2022. Brinson didn't think the additions on defense, or the hiring of Jim Schwartz would result in so much as one more win. He was proven wrong, however, as Cleveland finished with the No. 5 seed.

Schwartz proved to be an elite hire as he won the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year Award and helped Myles Garrett win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. For good measure, Joe Flacco was the Comeback Player of the Year and Kevin Stefanski won his second NFL Coach of the Year Award.

Despite all of the positive momentum, the bias against Cleveland continues to shine through. Jeff Kerr, also of CBS Sports, has the Browns as one of the teams he believes will take a step back in 2024. His reasoning is similar to Brinson's last year — Deshaun Watson.

While he does say they might lose defensive pieces, Kerr focuses on the return of Watson. And, of course, brings up his $230 million contract which really seems to bother people. For whatever reason, they don't want the guys who put their bodies on the line to get guaranteed deals, but would prefer the rich billionaires were better protected. He even talks about the salary cap but puts all the blame for a perceived decline solely on Watson.

"This all comes down to Watson, who needs to be the quarterback the Browns paid for. If Watson is mediocre, the Browns will be, too." — Kerr, CBS Sports

Browns were rolling with Deshaun Watson, even if everyone wants to forget that

The interesting thing about this continued notion that the Browns will be mediocre because Watson hasn't been elite is silly. Cleveland won with four different quarterbacks, even going 4-1 with Flacco who was out of the league until November. They weren't being carried by any quarterback but instead they were winning due to a deep roster that continually stepped up due to injury. They also had an incredible coaching staff considering they took home the two most prestigous coaching awards.

Even worse than overlooking the talented roster and the coaching staff is the fact that Cleveland was playing very well when Watson was under center. For as much praise as Flacco gained for going 4-1, Watson was technically 5-1 as the starter. Of course, he threw just five passes in one of those wins but even taking out the victory over Indy, he would have an identical record as Flacco.

That even includes a win over the Baltimore Ravens, which was the final game Watson played before his shoulder sent him to the IR. In that game, Watson was hampered by a broken bone in his shoulder and he injured his ankle. He wasn't slowed by the injuries either, going 14-of-14 for 139 yards and a touchdown in the final 30 minutes, leading his team to a comeback win.

So when we last saw Watson, he was playing out of his mind against the No. 1 seed in the AFC. A team that won six in a row with their only regular season loss following that contest coming in Week 18 when NFL MVP Lamar Jackson didn't play. Watson carved up a team that went to the AFC Championship Game and held the Chiefs to 17 points, dropping 16 in the final quarter of a 33-31 win.

Yet the narrative is already starting that he's mediocre and the Browns will take a step back. The bias is real and it isn't going to stop. Buckle up Cleveland fans, it will be another long — and somewhat annoying — offseason.

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