By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The news cycle moves fast these days. People forget things rather quickly. It’s so bad that reporters can literally repeat themselves verbatim after waiting a couple of months, and they get celebrated for breaking new stories.
Given that reality, it’s worth taking a step back to recall a certain story that now feels like ancient history. And that story in this case involves a narrative formed over many months that decided that this year, in The Year Of Our Lord Two-Thousand And Nineteen … the Cleveland Browns were going to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
In real life!
“I plan on being there for the next five years and trying to bring as many championships there as possible, turning [the Browns] into the new Patriots,” Odell Beckham Jr. said in May, in real life, on planet earth.
It’s not working out too well, as the Browns are 6-8 and are eliminated from the playoffs. Beckham would still have a shot to win a bunch of championships in Cleveland, technically, but he’s apparently begging everybody he sees to rescue him. Jarvis Landry, who had a little sideline spat with Freddie Kitchens last week, has apparently joined that chorus, too.
Meanwhile Baker Mayfield, who became the apple of the football world’s eye after leading the Browns to a 6-7 record as a starter last year, spent part of his offseason randomly dunking on Daniel Jones.
“I cannot believe the Giants took Daniel Jones. Blows my mind,” Mayfield told GQ. “Some people overthink [evaluating quarterbacks]. That’s where people go wrong. They forget you’ve gotta win.”
They forget you’ve gotta win!
The Browns are 6-8. They’re two games behind the Steelers, who lost their starting quarterback in Week 2 yet have found more success than the Browns this year.
Here’s a line from a story written in September: “The odds of the Browns winning the Super Bowl have gone from 30-1 to 18-1 this year because of the heavy betting on Cleveland. They are at 9-1 to win the AFC.”
Nine-to-one to make the Super Bowl!
Here is a quote from head coach Freddie Kitchens in July: “I want everybody to understand this: Our goal here with the Cleveland Browns, as long as I’m here, will always be to win the Super Bowl. Just know and make it a given that that’s what I believe to my core, is to win the Super Bowl.”
Yikes, Fred. Maybe set the sights a little lower so that you don’t lose by 30 points to the Titans in Week 1. Or at Denver. Or at Arizona. When you don’t win those games, it becomes extremely difficult to win a Super Bowl, generally speaking.
Here is a headline from Bleacher Report in March: “The Browns Finally Are Super Bowl Contenders After Landing Odell Beckham Jr.”
It’s all kind of funny, how a rise from miserable to just subpar launched all sorts of crazy, wild expectations for a team led by an unproven quarterback and a super-unproven head coach. It’s akin to when the Browns tried to act as if LeBron James’ NBA championship with the Cavaliers would somehow lead to success on the field for the football team.
An ESPN writer said, “The right coach should be able to put it together the way Ty Lue did with the Cavs, and the Browns believe they have that guy in Hue Jackson. Lue’s guidance helped; the Browns believe Jackson’s will as well.”
Heck yeah! Hue Jackson, baby!
“The Cavaliers are champs. Now we’ve got to work like LeBron and the Cavs to get ours,” Joe Haden said in the summer of 2016. “This is motivation for our city, and motivation for our team. I am just so ready to go win a championship right now.”
“It gives us momentum and it gives us ‘they did it and now it’s our turn,” quarterback Cody Kessler, who’s now a third-stringer on the Patriots, said.
The Browns ended up going 1-15 that year. They went 0-16 the year after that.
Provided you don’t actually care about the Cleveland football Browns, then it’s all pretty funny.
Now, you might be in a mood to accuse me of having bashed the Browns solely to distract from the fact that this is an NFL picks column and yet the writer appears to be quite bad at making correct NFL picks. It’s all a diversionary tactic to point out other people’s failures so as to distract from one’s own failures.
To that accusation, I would say … the Browns are so bad ha ha ha ha ha aaaaanyways.
(Wednesday lines; Home team in CAPS)
Houston (-3) over TAMPA BAY
Of all the games that could have been chosen to kick off Saturday football in 2019, the NFL went with the Buccaneers. Of Tampa Bay.
On the one hand, watching Jameis throw pick after pick is entertaining. But putting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on national TV will always and forever be a strange choice to make.
Buffalo (+6.5) over NEW ENGLAND
Maybe 13 days ago or so, it hit me that this game was going to have a 7-6 final score, one way or another. Nothing that’s happened in the two weeks since then has convinced me otherwise. I don’t know which team will have seven, I don’t know which team will have six. But that 7-6 final score looks like a guarantee.
The only thing that could disrupt this plan is if Josh Allen throws multiple pick-sixes, which is a distinct possibility.
SAN FRANCISCO (-6.5) over Los Angeles Rams
Have to imagine the morale is low in Ramsville after last week’s dud in Dallas. That was brutal. And so, with a whimper, the Rams will join a somewhat long list of Super Bowl losers that fail to even make the playoffs the following year. What an extreme difference 11 months can make.
At least Sean McVay won’t have to worry about every single one of his friends and relatives getting head coaching jobs this offseason.
Atlanta (-7) over JACKSONVILLE
Speaking of comedowns, Jacksonville. My oh my. They were a play or two away from reaching the Super Bowl two years ago. (Myles Jack was more down than the world cares to remember, by the way. He was on the turf after tackling — and thus, contacting — a Patriots player. Seems downish.) Now, they’re getting roasted by the NFLPA, advising players to maybe sign anywhere other than Jacksonville when choosing their next free-agent destination.
Dark days in Duval. (Do you even say “in Duval”? Or do you just say “Duuuuuuuuvaaaaaaallllll“? Nobody really knows.)
TENNESSEE (+2.5) over New Orleans
I don’t fully understand what’s going on with the Titans, and I outright refuse to fully recognize it. But even in a loss last week, they really showed something.
New York Giants (+2.5) over WASHINGTON
What is the point of this football game? Who will even bother to attend this football game? Will the Redskins print out exclusive merchandise for this football game? (The Redskins did that for their Jets game, but I can’t find the picture. Special shirts printed out for Washington vs. New York, in 2019. What a world.)
NEW YORK JETS (+3) over Pittsburgh
I’m not so much rooting for the Jets as much as I am rooting for mayhem. And after “Renegade” fired up the Bills and led them to a Sunday night victory, a loss at the Jets would really send Pittsburgh into a frenzy. And that would be kind of funny, don’t you think?
Cincinnati (+1) over MIAMI
It’s kind of a bummer that this is not a battle of defeated teams, which looked like a distinct possibility earlier in the year. The battle for the No. 1 pick would have been infinitely captivating. Instead we just get a bad football game.
Carolina (7.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
The Colts have lost four in a row. The Panthers have lost six in a row. I hope they tie.
CLEVELAND (+11.5) over Baltimore
Despite all of the Browns bashing to start this column, they did somehow beat the best team in the NFL earlier this year, when they shellacked the Ravens 40-25. Cleveland racked up 530 yards of offense that day. Nick Chubb ran for 165 and three touchdowns. Mayfield threw for 376 yards.
How the flippin’ heck did that all happen?
I’m not sure. It won’t happen again. But considering the Browns all wanted to win the Super Bowl this year, maybe they can treat this game as their Super Bowl. If they keep it within two touchdowns? That’s worth a trophy, I’d say.
Detroit (+6.5) over DENVER
Well this is a bad game.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-6.5) over Oakland
I don’t know this for sure, as the data is scarce on the subject. But! I’d imagine it’s difficult to play a football game one week after fans angrily threw nachos at you.
Dallas (-2.5) over PHILADELPHIA
The NFC East championship should be more exciting than this. Alas.
SEATTLE (-9.5) over Arizona
Kyler Murray has been pretty good, right? All things considered (namely, the disaster that is the Cardinals organization), he’s been better than anyone should have reasonably expected. But a trip to Seattle, against a Seahawks team looking to cling to the top seed in the NFC, is not going to be a fun afternoon for the rookie.
Kansas City (-4.5) over CHICAGO
The Bears can’t win this game.
No! No way.
But … maybe?
Wait, no. They can’t.
The Bears do have two wins against playoff teams, but they are the worst playoff teams (Dallas, Minnesota). Kansas City is kind of rolling. A Bears victory here is infinitely more captivating, but it’s just not likely.
(Side note: Did you know that in games that start later than 1 p.m., Mitch Trubisky has 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 16 games?! That’s fantastic. He has a 32-to-13 TD-to-INT ratio in 1 p.m. ET games.)
Green Bay (+3.5) over MINNESOTA
It’ll be a cold day in Minnetonka when I take a Kirk Cousins-led team against an Aaron Rodgers-led team on a night when the Monday Night Football crew can fawn over Rogers for four hours. It’s just simple science. They got Drew Brees last week, and they get Rodgers this week. If only Brady could have been thrown into that run, America would have truly lost its collective mind.
Last week: 6-9-1